When my eldest nephew was about 18 months old, we began to introduce him to the playhouse/treehouse my father — his grandpa — had built here. As I toddled along with Cubbie, his chubby hands gripping my fingers and his diapered butt keeping his steps to a waddle, I pointed to the playhouse on top of the slide and jokingly said: “See, Cubbie, that’s Bag End!” As a proud nerd, I was fully prepared to likewise nerdify all nieces and nephews coming my way.
“Bag End! Bag End! Bag End!” he chirped back. I was shocked.
Not only did he repeat the name but, much to surprise, the name stuck. Bag End it became and Bag End it forever shall be, inhabited by spritely hobbits of all sorts.
Being a family of imagination, the property slowly began to turn into Middle Earth. Pathways cut through the forest began garnering names like “Bagshot Row” or “The Great Road”. It’s been terrific fun. I love turning the woods into an epic story we can live through and walk through. The space takes on new meaning and mischief. The paths, while certain and homeward bound, are never the same way twice.
I was challenged a couple weeks ago by a friend to name that little one-room cabin I live in that also sits on my parents’ property. For all of our fantastic naming games, the cabin has always been “the cabin”. It kind of got missed.
Well where is the imagination in that?
I offered up Rivendell/Imladris, but both my friend and my parents laughed me down. Clearly the main house that actually could be Rivendell, for all its peace and wonder, should be Rivendell. My dwelling, apparently, was a little more homely and needed to be put in its place.
As I was driving back from Saskatoon tonight, “Sweet Child O’Mine” cranked up on the stereo, I drank in the western sunlight hitting the fall coloured-trees. I had begged the trees to not turn fully or let fall their leaves just yet until I came back. I was thrilled to see they heard my plea, and then proceeded to show off their glory down a long, lonely stretch of highway. Have I mentioned how autumn is my favourite time of the year? Long before pumpkin-spice-everything took over, I always seemed to come alive in the fall. When nature begins to preparing herself for sleep, I come awake. The colours, the smells, the temperature, the crunchy leaves, the bright mosses — it all never lasts long enough, but the brief moments that are given I dwell in each year, and they spark a life in me like no other. I live for those moments.
And I had it.
Tom Bombadil is a merry spirit of Middle Earth who lives with his wife Goldberry near the Withywindle. While appearing to be almost a laughable puck, Tolkien hints that Tom could very well be the oldest being in all of Middle Earth. He is bound to nature, loves it, tends it, and lives in a warm, welcoming home in the woods. His home is never really named — kind of like the cabin — and yet it gives shelter, warmth, and rest for weary, homeless hobbits.
As I walked down the path towards Bombadil House, I breathed in the autumn air and gloried in how the sun lit up the trees, still simmering with leaves. My sad iPod pictures don’t do the real thing justice. But I’ve come to love this path: deciduous and coniferous, light spaces and shadows, winding its way towards home. As I came around the bend, after long weeks away, I saw Bombadil House ready for me. Visited by bears and adventurous nephews alike, I’m proud of this little old spot in the middle of the forest that simply offers shelter. It pretends to be nothing else than what it is, and yet magically becomes more than one could imagine.
I like that.
Wait until the nephews hear about this.