A story about a tree
I was called out last week to potentially mediate a situation with Parks and some passionate tree advocates in PierPark. Neither I nor my boss really knew what we would do when we got out there. I volunteered to go as long as I didn’t have to advocate that the tree be cut down. The goal was to cool down the situation.
We drove around lost for a moment then finally found the spot. There were Portland Police, Park Rangers, Parks staff, staff from the Mayors’ office; two folks from Resolutions Northwest had arrived as well as a dozen community members. When we got there there was a neighborhood activist verifying that the Parks department had been in contact with them and that the association had given them the ok to cut down the tree.
The community standing there felt that the notice they were given was too short about the cutting down of this beautiful tall tree standing in the midst of the grove. They had several suggestions on how it could possibly be different, a different angle, could they build the bridge around the tree. On woman just kept saying she was full of emotion, she was angry, she didn’t want the tree to go.
Another woman asked me if I worked for the Government and even though I said yes she said the Government lied, didn’t give them enough time, they weren’t included in the process. We were all standing in a circle. A suggestion came up from one of the mediators if we could move this meeting to a coffee shop. Both Sides said no, one because the time for negotiations was over and the tree would be cut down, the other saying they refused to leave because they were afraid if they left the tree it would surely be cut down. RNW stepped in to take over the facilitation of the meeting.
I’m standing in the circle and my attention kept going to the tree. It was as if it was calling me. Here it stood in the middle of the grove with yellow crime tape around the area as if a murder occurred. And this one tree was marked for death with a ribbon around it and notes posted to it from people trying to save its life.
Something deep inside me kept telling me “You know you have to go pray over this tree, you have to lay hands on it, you can’t leave here until you do.” So I asked one of my friends from Parks if I could go over and touch the tree and he escorted me past the Police officer keeping people from crossing the yellow tape.
If you know me, I am in awe of trees- they do so much to improve our lives, from giving us clean air to breathe to the peace one has when they see it, stand next to it- and yes hug it. I laid my hands on the tree and I closed my eyes and I said a prayer- I thanked the tree for all it had done and for all it would do. I thought about all the years it stood there with its brothers, the birds it housed, the shade it provided on hot days and well as just the awesomeness of its noble stature. And I thanked it- there was so much energy in that tree! Tears streamed down my face and I was overwhelmed with feeling, not for the loss of the tree but for the realization that trees don’t stand around wondering like we do what we are supposed to be. Trees always operate in their full purpose , it is we humans who need to learn acknowledge and utilize them in an honorable way.
I was done- I went back to the circle and told my boss I was ready to leave but I had to say one thing to the group which was you should have a ceremony, use the remnant for something good and plant more trees which was already a part of the plan.
The next day the tree was cut down in the midst of people protesting its removal, arrest and ceremony. That day I spent some time telling many stories about the river and that tree to some young men from PSU. The picture attached is from one of them.
Thank you for getting to the heart of the matter yesterday. I visited the Sequoia you spoke of. It has been cut down.
Praying for a better day,