The Biosphere Tree in the news
The following article appeared in theMarch 23 issue of the Honolulu Advertiser newspaper, by Wade Shirkey:
SWINGERS PAD: 1,500-square-foot, seven split-levels, on half-acre, forested, streamside, 'tree simple' plot; hardwood floors; surrounding lanai. Swing access -- satisfy the Tarzan in you. Continuous 'open house.'"
Some folk probably said Daniel Susott was a bit "out of this tree" even then -- without a childhood tree house, the Punahou student got his "tree fix" hanging out with his pet monkey, Baby, among the bamboo forests at Nu'uanu's Jackass Ginger.
Now 49, the successful physician, author/playwright and recognized Cambodian orphan humanitarian, has moved over a valley -- and built the most magnificent, treehouse hoity-toity upper Woodlawn has ever seen.
Treehouse artist and builder, Richard Gee, said building inspectors seem to agree: "When we first started building, every one on the island came to "guided us," he said diplomatically. "Actually, I think they didn't want to cross the (swinging rope) bridge!" to inspect.
Complaints about the towering structure from an unhappy neighbor, likewise fell on deaf ears, Susott said: "If it doesn't touch the ground, I didn't need a permit." And he's gotten used, he said, to getting turned down for home insurance. The ever-expanding tree now bridges the stream below, an often six-foot deep pool providing swimming, under a geosphere sphere, for other gymnastic "monkey business." Cushioning the view underneath are lotus, jack and star fruit, banana, liliko'i and guava -- and a Thai Spirit House for reverence. "This place is sacred in nature -- and playful 'in nature,'" said Susott, a self-described "Buddhist with Hindu leanings." Blessed originally by Tibetan rinpoches, the house also hosts monthly Buddhist Peace Fellowship meetings, teachings and meditation, as well as "Full Moon Sacred Sound Circles," allowing the sounds of timpani, Tibetan singing balls -- even Australian didgeridoo to join the sounds of resident bullfrogs and a family of seven wild pigs below. "It's conducive to meditation," said Susott. The home serves as headquarters for "starving artists" of each year's International Film Festival, those with more talent than wherewithal, and has hosted the likes of Quentin Tarantino and Nobel-prize nominee, author, Arthur C. Clark. Adults, said Susott, are as enamored of the treehouse as kids: "I've seen college professors beaming ear to ear" he said, as well as visiting 80-year-olds. Susott frequently abandons the nearby main house to sleep outdoors -- when the "No vacancy" sign isn't out. With an average two to three "guests" many weeks, "My father used to call this my 'Flop House.'" He maintains a resident housemate on the property to do "crowd control"for the popular treehouse -- as well as its own webpage: firstname.lastname@example.org. As many as 60 people have celebrated in the tree at one time.
Planned are solar panels, water catchment system and tank for showers, and "perhaps a hammock up there. . . " Susott plans out loud. In return for his expertise, Gee, who hauls materials up the tree via zip-line, or by hand, is the only one allowed to wear shoes in the house. Part Native American, part Chinese, he isn't sure if he's also part crazy: "I used to build houses," he said. "Now, I can't stand being inside any more."