Friday, June 4, 2010

Spend a Week in My Tree

That was by far one of the longer weeks in my life, perhaps not quite as long as the week I spent crawling around on my hands and knees in fire school learning search techniques, but long enough indeed! The bruises were getting worse every day and there wasn't any part of my lower body that I could rest against the tree to hold myself in place without pressing on a contusion. There were lots of emails coming in saying that what I was trying to do wasn't crazy but brave from family, in-laws and complete strangers!

Some pottery customers (Brenda and Brian) brought me an amazing gift basket with all sorts of fruit and snacks, even a box of danish brie that I nibbled with the crackers they gave me. I haven't had a gift box since I was starving my way through college and had forgotten how neat it is to open each jar of thoughtfulness and realize that each item in the box was carefully selected with you in mind. I lost 9 pounds in the tree week and needed a little extra food to get my strength back.

The long weekend ended with a cold rain and my coming down from my perch at 10pm to go home get a hot shower, nibble on some food and fall asleep on the couch until Dave made me get up and go to bed. I set my alarm for 4 am and was already awake as the alarm went off, in my Our Lady Peace T-shirt and out the door before 430. Dave buying and giving me the shirt with the tree on it was such a boost of support for me every time I looked at it or thought about it I felt accepted (even acting out like I was).

There was also a lot of support at the tree itself. All sorts of people came and chatted and a lady that lives on the creek that flows around the park we were in, came out for a walk the Tuesday morning and leaned against the tree and couldn't leave! There was a whole group gathered the morning that the workers came back to work. We all sat and waited and they talked among themselves, some of them talked about how they had called the municipal office when it was open and then called the mayor at home and talked to his wife. The thought of all these beautiful people calling the elected municipal counsellors at home during the long weekend made me laugh, maybe it wasn't just my weekend that was ruined by the decisions they had made to randomly cut trees down, maybe the people who actually approved of the plan could have a very long and tiring weekend!! (hahahhaha)

The City counsellors that had come to talk to me and see these gorgeous trees, worked through the weekend trying to get a consensus to ask the Municipality to sit down with them and find a way around the trees. There was a meeting scheduled between the two groups of politicians for the Wednesday. When I was told that meeting and was assured that no more trees would be cut until after they had talked, I assured them that I really appreciated all the hard work but that I wasn't getting down until I had a written letter proving that they would not cut anything down.

So I sat. I read aloud from a James Herriot. I adjusted on my bruises.
The assembled group stood, handed me tea and apple cake (made from local apples) and one of the naturalists, Genevieve Singleton, lent me a book about the ecosystem that lives around and under the Garry Oak trees full of beautiful photos. They chatted, took photos, shot video and everyone waited in the rain.

My little red cell phone rang in my zipper pocket, I answered, "Tree phone, Hilary speaking!" and it was the Mayor or North Cowichan. He told me that he was just stepping out of an unrelated meeting and had found out that the baseball people had found a way to work around the existing trees. I listened and wasn't sure what to say. I was happy but I guess I had never actually thought of what I would do if we won. I thanked him and then said that I would get down when I had that in writing. He explained that his staff was sending an official press release to all involved and the papers as we spoke!

I hung up and yelled for everyone to focus on me for a minute and then yelled that I had good news. A huge cheer went up from the group and everyone hugged the person beside them. What a lovely sight from way up there to see all these strangers embracing and laughing and in their own small way...winning.

They had done it! Each phone call and every email was counted and answered and applied the pressure that it was intended to. Each one of them owned this victory, they had become "public pressure"!

I got a group of rapid fire calls from the press and they said that they would bring down a copy of the press release that they had received, for me to read. I agreed to stay for a few photos and an interview and then started to undo my shelter and all the ropes that were securing my things.

It was funny how little a person really needed, mostly it was the support that everyone showed for the tree and the reasons that I was up there. My amazing husband was shocked when he called a while later and I told him I was back on the ground, I think he really expected to have to call all his friends to try to raise money to bail me out of jail. I handed my tarp and tea and backpack down to the helpful hands of the people who were waiting.

I climbed down and was hugged.

They took pictures.

They smiled and laughed and answered questions and dispersed slowly, very satisfied.

I was feeling a little lost, like I had been pushing against a huge brick wall with all my might and then the wall just disappeared.

I fell over, emotionally and felt kind of shocked. I automatically packed all my bits and pieces into and onto my back pack and decided to walk out through the middle of the construction site. I wanted to say good-bye to the foreman who had to worry about me on his site for a week. He stopped the machine he was in and walked over to the mucky road that I was on and grinned really wide. I had made my point and no one had gotten hurt or even really been confronted. I asked him if he had heard the news. I wanted to know if the politicians had told the only people that really mattered in this struggle, the guy with the plans and the chainsaw. We walked out to the paved road and he made a silly attempt to show the other construction workers that he was hauling me out by my arm. We had a good laugh and walked on.

Once at the edge of the construction site, we both instinctively turned around and looked back across the 30+ acres to admire the grand old tree glistening, maybe even sparkling in the pre-noon sunlight, her canopy full and strong.

A small breeze fluttered all her south facing leaves. She was saying thank you. She was tall and strong and staring me right back in the heart. She was saying.....nothing. As if she had always known that she was only alive by the mercy of her neighbours.

That day, that week, I was her neighbour. Then everyone was a good neighbour, they gave a damn, a phone call, an email, a gentle nudge to their friends, they pushed back.

Then the sun broke through the clouds and in a way that only happens here, the fresh rain really did sparkle off of every surface of that grand old tree.

Just a tree....my ass!!! (pun intended)
video

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