By Anna Pulley
By Erin Sherbert
By Chris Roberts
By Erin Sherbert
By Rachel Swan
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"We get a lot of incredible people that come up here," Brown recalls. "People quit their jobs, quit school, put on a backpack, and help out. It's what keeps this movement going. This woman had a life-threatening accident. I was really struck by her story. I was definitely excited."
Butterfly returned to sit in the tree for a few more days, then fell ill and descended again. On Dec. 10 she returned to Luna, this time intent on staying. She set up housekeeping on a piece of plywood the size of a queen bed, 180 feet above the ground.
And her very first day, she met Climber Dan.
PALCO loggers regularly encounter activists sitting in trees that have been marked to be cut. The company has designated a special employee to remove them. Activists have named him Climber Dan, and he is the bane of every tree-sitter.
He's worked for PALCO for years, since even before the takeover, and has a strange mutual respect with Earth First!. They admire his woodsman skills, and he's intrigued by their continual ingenuity in designing obstacles to outsmart him. Climber Dan quickly shinnies up redwoods using a chain around the trunk and spiked "spurs" on his boots. Typically he'll climb above the sitter, cut down his or her supplies, and if necessary, physically escort the activist down the tree.
The concept of a character like Climber Dan seems almost the stuff of myth.
"These are mythical characters, doing ritual battles in the enchanted forest," says Robert Parker, media liaison to Butterfly. "I wonder what Joseph Campbell would make of it."
On the very first day of Butterfly's sit, Climber Dan ascended a tree neighboring Luna in pursuit of her. But she says he was physically unable to move from his tree onto the branches of Luna and bring her down. Climber Dan retreated, but efforts to dislodge Butterfly have never stopped.
As logging continued all around Luna, Pacific Lumber tried other methods to get rid of her. Air horns, spotlights, whistles, and shouted epithets -- one of the nicer comments was "Have a bad hair day!" -- wouldn't roust Butterfly from her perch. Chain saws toppled most of the trees surrounding Luna. Butterfly hung onto the platform as the wash from helicopter blades blew branches off her tree. She rolled up in her tarp to ride out the 90 mph winter storms.
But she didn't leave.
Robert Parker wanders through a garden, picking tomatoes to bring to Butterfly. The garden is at one end of a field outside Stafford, 250 miles north of San Francisco. On this location one year ago, an estimated 8,000 people, including Julia Hill, attended an Earth First! Headwaters rally and listened to speeches by Bonnie Raitt, Jerry Brown, and Mickey Hart. Except for a Headwaters banner and portable toilet, the field is now empty.
The 34-year-old Parker has been liaison for Butterfly since the beginning of her tree-sit. His Luna Media Services runs her Web site, sends out press releases, and coordinates her interviews, an average of three a day. In the 1980s he squatted with anarchists in San Francisco buildings. Now he works with Headwaters activists and since last December has been taking members of the media on an exhausting two-mile hike up a hillside to introduce them to Butterfly.
He makes one trip a week up to her, delivering an average of 50 letters, and she sends back as many. When she isn't talking to the press, she listens to a radio powered by a hand crank. They've had five offers of a free laptop computer, but have refused. A cellular phone, pager, radio, and CD player are enough. The two talk by phone at least twice a day, often until midnight, planning out the next day's activities.
Luna stands on a steep slope, surrounded by fallen trees that PALCO has yet to remove. The tree is approximately 1,000 years old, and its board-feet are estimated to be worth at least $100,000. People have embedded little beads and rocks into the bark. One side is burned and scarred, but redwoods are very resilient. Even before Charles Hurwitz was born, the tree had endured a lot.
Journalists are no longer allowed to climb the tree to visit Butterfly, only photographers. Parker says it's too much hassle. A videographer for Evening Magazine reached Butterfly and nearly fell off the platform. Others didn't even make it that far.
"A reporter from Time magazine got up 30 feet, and freaked out," says Parker. Climbing guides had to bring her back down.
Instead, Parker takes reporters up the ridge to a ledge, where they conduct interviews by walkie-talkie. At eye level, roughly 150 feet away, Butterfly stands barefoot at the very top of the tree. The wind blows her long hair, and the first sight of her seems surreal and dreamlike, like an animated character from a Disney film poised on a cliff, or the two lovers on the bow of the Titanic.
"Isn't she amazing?" says Parker in obvious admiration.
What's immediately apparent is that she's very personable. She laughs easily, with the sense of playfulness that often comes from someone who has nearly died and returned to life determined to be a completely pure human being.