Luna and Christmas Tree

by Milo Clark

December 11, 2000



The difference between 1,000 year old Luna and any five year old tree sacrificed for seasonal decoration is a difference which might make a difference if . . . . if what?

Practically, it takes any old chain saw in the hands of a heartless wimp to cut a Christmas Tree and a very sophisticated and specialized chain saw cum operator, not to mention exponentially greater intent, to harm, to slice across Luna.

Philosophically, most folks with a cheap chain saw cutting Christmas Trees by the hour, are quite indifferent to anything other than the hourly wage thereby available. Other than the tree they cut for themselves, they are likely to attach little symbolic value to their work. Cutting a tree for such a purpose has little or no moral value or attachment to them, just a seasonal job. They are in the great majority by far.

The sophisticated operator with his or her quite expensive and very dangerous to handle chain saw who cut across Luna is of another breed altogether. This person or persons, in their own mind or minds, was making a highly symbolic gesture. Julia Butterfly succeeded in arousing a degree of passion, contrary to hers certainly, matching or exceeding hers in intent. Luna may be dying for our sins to give us eternal life. Symbolic sacrifice?

Bill Bailey of Laytonville CA is likely to be among the unknown to most Swans scanners. Twenty five years back, after he was disabled by a falling tree, oh, yes, Bill Bailey was a tree faller for many years before this accident, Bill and his wife, Judith, were confronted by a need to make a living which didn't depend on his working in the forests taking down trees.

Laytonville, for those who may not know, is pretty close to Luna's 1,000 year reign among the giant redwoods and sequoias dear to tree fallers. Ronny Raygun may have said, in reference to these trees, "If you have seen one redwood, you have seen them all."

The general attitude toward 1,000 year old trees and once-upon-a-time indigenous peoples of northern California may be similar. "The only good Injun is a dead Injun" is close to "The only good redwood is lumber." In central and northern California, the local natives were exterminated quite ruthlessly by the forebearers of the tree fallers now doing in redwoods and such.

Now, Bill Bailey and Judith and the family have been very successful in finding alternative work over these last twenty-five years since a falling tree accident forced Bill out of the forest. Bailey's of Laytonville, CA and since 1984 Jackson, TN is to use their own phrase, "The World's Largest Mail Order Woodsman Supplies Company - Selling at Discount Prices." Bill and Judith are obviously caring people and good citizens strong in their beliefs and doing well by doing right.

Their twenty-fifth anniversary catalog features a heraldic coat of arms (quite literally, as the center is a pair of brawny arms clutching an evergreen seedling) of crossed double bit axes and a two-man cross cut saw in the middle of a log with trees above and the hand-clutched seedling below. "The Woodman Coat of Arms" carries around its circumference "People in unison with nature" and "Reforesting," "Professionalism," "Harvesting."

Among logos festooning the signature page of the catalog are those of "Tree Farm," "Society of American Foresters," "American Forest and Paper Association," "Outdoor Power Equipment Aftermarket Association," "Western Hardwood Association," "National Arborist Association," "American Pulpwood Association," "Association of Consulting Foresters of America," "National Hardwood Lumber Association," and "Forest Landowners Association," plus . . . "numerous other local, state, regional and national organizations committed to the Forest Products Industry." Bill Bailey is a joiner and advocate.

Generally speaking, from my research, the Forest Products Industry sees little if any distinction between a 1,000 year old redwood and a seedling tree. It is a simple question of perspectives. One for one is fair and ecologically aware and environmentally sensitive. If you don't believe it, ask any forestry association member or tree faller making a living out in the woods under conditions most Swans scanners would find totally masochistic.

Bill and Judith Bailey are very attractive and very successful people with a marvelous story to tell and great pride in telling it. Twelve years ago, they started a reforestation department. They bought a 160-acre tract which is now their Tree and Forest Research Center. They are building their 4,000 plus sq. ft. retirement home there from lumber cut and milled on the property. They developed a sophisticated Forest Management Plan worthy of anyone's "sustainable" forestry commendations. They innovated products and supplies to serve the tree planters as well as the tree fallers. One for one or ten for one or one hundred for one -- all the better.

I wonder, perversely I suppose, how many seedlings does it take to equal the weight and mass of a Luna? Can the vitality of any seedling approach that of the patri-matriarch? And, certainly, Luna was once a seedling so that the cycle of life is maintained by planting seedlings in neat rows for future harvests.

Our problem is our very short fruit-fly existence within which a 1,000 year tree is totally beyond our ken. We know intellectually, but rarely grok, that each redwood seedling, whether randomly cast in the forest or planted in rows, is a future Luna. Taking Luna down is simply making space for new growth. Take it as a bardo* to be released on the path to enlightenment.

The Small Woodland Management Kit developed by Bailey's is excellent and pragmatic advice for anyone interested in "sustainable" management of a forest lot. There are state-sensitive versions for Oregon, Arkansas, California, Idaho, Montana and Washington. It is a practical program for those attempting to maintain small wood lot values in the face of incremental aggregating forestry giants who delight in cutting down Luna, given a chance. Small wood lots do not, however, normally include 1,000 year old redwoods, much less Luna.

For perspective, a giant old growth redwood such as Luna yields over $100,000 in lumber -- at wholesale! Ten Lunas yield a million. One thousand Lunas make a billion dollars. A good question for those making mortgage and other payments would be "What would you do with a 1,000 year old, $100,000 redwood endangering your roof or livelihood?

The difference with which we begin comes down to pure value judgments. Bill Bailey, in all his virtues, also sells "Big Tree Posters," 12 of them 11" x 17" each. I mean these posters are of Big Trees, nearly all of which show a smiling properly hard-hatted man roped high up the tree waving at the photographer's telephoto lens. Any one of those smiling, proud and properly hard-hatted men could also be the one who did Luna.

Bailey's also sells 11 U.S. Logger Videos. Among them, "The Greatest Living Things on Earth," "It will transport you through some of the most memorable footage of the redwoods you'll ever view." Most of the videos are quite interesting history, mythic nostalgia, of logging and related arts from New England to West Coast. The tree fallers love their fallen trees on one dimension and love the forests of trees on another. Good and evil walking around in the same bodies, I guess.

Julia Butterfly threatens some of these folks real deep like. Those of us who read history somewhat can "know" that tree fallers are among the more exploited of Americans in terms of terrible working conditions, miserable pay, miserly and mean bosses, etc. We can also note that they have successively culled the forests from east to west, south to north and won't stop except at water's edge.

As forestry exploitation is an economic as well as social and philosophical issue, we further need to note that attempting to solve problems using the tools, techniques and thoughts which create them is silly. Europe and most of Asia were deforested long before Europeans stumbled upon the American continents.

Forests will be cut, Lunas will fall as long as we use paper, wood and rayon, as some examples, to excess. Cry for Luna (or Amazon or wherever trees are disappearing rapidly) and cut down your consumption to spare her sisters and brothers. Luna is an example of a demand-side problem, conundrum, in fact, which will not yield to supply side approaches. Tree fallers know that nearly all of us ranting and raving and raging about Luna are hypocrites -- just like them. They love the trees and cut them down. We howl about tree cutting and waste trees in our own ways.

I do buy chains for my chain saws, and their very tough and durable "Wild Ass" work pants, from Bailey's. Their catalog is an encyclopedia of tools and equipment related to the tree fallers' trades. Customer service is excellent. Products are tough and reliable.

We do not buy cut Christmas Trees, rarely even a "live" one. I have cut down some pretty big trees which were overhanging the house.


* The processes described in The Tibetan Book of the Dead, actually a guide for the living on the processes following physical incapacity and what westerners would call brain death, have several stages which are called BARDOs. The processes described involve handling the bardos and going through and beyond them. Flunk one and it is back to another lifetime in samsara, the endless wheel of life embodied. Handle them and you are released therefrom.


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Related links

Timber, Behavior, Change: An Uneasy Trio by Gilles d'Aymery

Luna's Cut - by Julia Butterfly Hill



Resources on the War in Yugoslavia and its Aftermath


Articles Published on Swans Regarding the War in Yugoslavia and its Aftermath

Published December 11, 2000
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