Out Front, Fall 1998
In the beginning, she was but a pilgrim with a decidedly funky name. Julia "Butterfly" Hill, a 24-year-old barmaid, meandered west last autumn from Arkansas, bearing the great burden of spiritual hunger. "What I wanted," she recalls, "was for the universe to tell me where I was meant to be." Somehow the local Earth First! contingent pointed her toward climbing a 200-foot redwood in northern California — and staying up there. Now, almost a year after her December 10 ascent, Butterfly is camped 180 feet up on a six-by-eight-foot platform to protest The Pacific Lumber Company's destruction of Headwaters, one of the world's last and largest (60,000 acres) unprotected redwood forests. Camouflaged by the cause, though, is the inner Butterfly, the little girl who years ago had an "incredibly inspiring" encounter with a small, winged creature. We wanted to find that girl — so we rang her up on the cell phone she keeps in the tree.
You call your tree Luna?
Oh, yes, and she protects me. Once, in a storm, branches were collapsing around me, and I grabbed onto her and said, "I don't mean to press this negative energy on you, but I'm scared," and she said, "I'll do everything to save you."
So Luna is a she. And the forest is, uh, a great force-field of female energy?
A woman is what it takes to nurture a child to life, but it takes a man, too. And I'm not talking about bylaws or mores here. I'm talking about nature. We are all one body.
Even Pacific Lumber's despised owner, Charles Hurwitz, is part of that body?
Yes, Luna and I love him. And I believe that soon he will realize we love him.
Then he'll hike into the forest and hug a huge tree?
No, he might just call me and say, "Julia, what should I do?" I'd tell him, "There's a type of forestry called sustainable forestry."
Alternatively, you could read him some verse. As I understand, you've written 26 spontaneous poems while sitting in Luna.
I have, and people keep saying, "Please publish your work."
Could you read me an excerpt?
It is a desperate picture that these branches frame / I want to strike out at the ones to blame / but that won't heal this sadness too deep for name.
Cool. So, I'm wondering: Do you bathe up there?
I use water and soap. You know, people stayed clean long before technology.
Uh, yeah. Um, how many hours a day you figure you're on that cell phone?
Many, but I don't have a sense of numbers and time and distance up here. I've been networking a lot with the indigenous Eyak of Alaska. The beautiful thing is that indigenous people are still wild.
How long do you think you'll be up there?
I don't know. I gave my word to Luna: I would not touch the ground until I did everything I possibly could to help the forest.