I walk along Central Park West 2 weeks after the Peoples Climate March. Buzzy, lonely people in bubbles of glass on wheels are talking to their dashboards, crossing Manhattan at 4 mph. Naomi K. says tell new stories. The story of the climate march can't be 400,000 people. We know that. That is only a view-count, a moderately viral click count. Our shattered attention span can't hold it. Maybe it'll be algorithmed into Utube's "What To Watch." But it's not a story. Stories stick to you, like old river mulch.
I'm standing on 59th, jay-walking the march route. I'm in the middle of the exhaust fumes of the bubbles. Where is the Earth's story here, the tale of interdependent life, of many living things? My eyes stray over to Central Park. Tell me the story. Earthalujah. Tell me. Do you trees remember our march? "Yes, the drought was over. The canyons filled with a rushing river. You were loons, frogs and wild bees and herons with banner-like wings and river otters..."
I want to run into the trees and then circle back into the traffic with the trees deputizing me as an honorary American Beech, with blackbirds singing in my eyes. At this point I'm so weirdly seductive, the car people are emerging from their rolling product pods. They are swimming up into the canyon. We take the elevator in the Time Warner building up to the glassy executive suites and sprout leaves from our foreheads. Scare you. Change you. Tell you a new story. "Nobody told you your 60 story glass building is empty? Your people have joined a media cooperative led by Chelsea Manning. Follow me. I must baptize you now into a living ecosystem. Can you sing, "Take Me to the River. Wash me down."
Tomorrow Sunday Sept 28th, 2:30 to 3:30 PM, we will remember Bendy, at the place where she lived in Tompkins Sq Park on the downtown edge, at the oval. The elm tree was healthy and unusually shaped, with a trunk that leaned to the east. Falsely called “structurally unsound” and “rotten” by an anonymous sign that preceded the chain saws, we have not been able to get to the bottom of why the tree was killed. The much-loved Bendy Tree was not in danger of falling down and posed no danger to anyone. She witnessed our comi-tragic efforts over the course of her 130 years, in this park that is the stage of the real-life play called the East Village.
We worked for a month on it and we're glad we did, but are also relieved to return to our own work. The climate march doesn't succeed as a stand alone event. It must quickly become practical radical work. Left alone, its success is as bland as a much-viewed television show sponsored by soaps, pain-killers and celebrities. After all, longtime polluters have embraced this "new era," but they have done this in the past as a stalling tactic. We agree with Sean Sweeney from big labor, who says that "fossil fuel company assets should be frozen immediately."
Here is our community elm tree, the Bendy Tree, in its last moments. Bendy was chopped down because a New York City arborist said it was "hollow" and "rotten" and "structurally unsound" and posed a threat to passersby... She was supposed to be 130 years old at this point, but I'm sure on the source of that age estimate.
What would that look like? When it happens and we all shift toward living differently - what do we see? What is the seed moment? The first time I saw change begin was in the Disney store. I shouted at an inappropriate volume level, with some friends who did the same. Then we witnessed eight or nine customers respond in eight or nine different ways. One giggled, another shut his eyes and covered them with his hand, a woman was clapping her hands and egging us on, another seemed paralyzed, alternately smiling and frowning, and so on. I thought I saw this kind anarchic release from conformity in the tourists standing along the edges of our climate march on Sunday.
FOOL-A-LUJAH! My prayers go to the thousands soon becoming fools, or check that - THE FLOOD. The more impatient group from yesterday's mega-march will dress up in blue and in wave after wave throw themselves on the impassive facades of Wall Street power. Seems like a very basic and dramatic action for the Earth.
During the takedown, it is clear that she was stronger and healthier than the diagnosis of the "professional arborist" of the city. It will take a while for us to transcend the fear we learned from the wllderness-hating old testament god that still secretly runs things when he can.
Note: This message was transcribed from a phone conversation with Reverend Billy while he was in jail.
Approaching Tompkins Square, I was planning to initiate a tree sit for the weekend during the People's Climate March and preach from the crotch of the tree. I got to the tree and couldn't climb it. I tried to shimmy up the trunk, but sure enough I felt a muscle snap in my right leg like a big rubber band. I dropped back down on the wire mesh floor of the orange truck. I felt the soul of Bendy Tree with multiple amputations. I found myself getting progressively depressed as I talked to the neighbors who knew the tree. Everyone there knew Bendy Tree. We cared for Bendy Tree.