Luna Stands Tall & Strong with Earth Medicine
Luna Stands Tall and Strong
I've learned a lot from Luna. I'm a math teacher. I am also on the board of Sanctuary Forest, a Humboldt County land trust. When Julia Butterfly climbed down from Luna, Sanctuary Forest became trustee of an agreement between Julia and Pacific Lumber Company, and I began my role as primary monitor/caretaker of this "Luna Covenant."by Stuart Moskowitz (Spring 2002)
When we first learned of the attack, we knew we had to do whatever was necessary to save Luna. We were concerned about Luna's biological health, but more pressing, we were concerned about Luna's structural stability. With the first of the winter's storms in the immediate forecast, we knew we had to act fast to keep Luna from toppling in the wind.
Redwood arborist Dennis Yniguez designed the brackets seen in many press photographs. These brackets function as "butterfly bandages," fastened above and below the saw cut to minimize Luna's movements.
These brackets are a testimony to Luna's strength as well as her influence. While it was Dennis who designed them, the brackets were manufactured by Pacific Lumber employees in their metal fabrication shop, then installed by volunteers from Sanctuary Forest, along with Pacific Lumber and California Department of Forestry employees. This all was completed in one long day, just as the storm arrived! Even more remarkable, the work was done by conservationists, loggers, and government agents working side by side!
This incredible collaboration was just beginning. Luna's stature as an international symbol for the need to protect our forests was far greater than I had imagined. While the brackets helped stabilize Luna, more was needed. As the coordinator of the "medical response team," I began receiving phone calls from people all over the world offering help.
photo: Chrissy Gruninger
After much collaboration and discussion, we chose to complete the structural work using the design of engineer Steve Salzman. Tree climbers (led by redwood canopy biologist Dr. Steve Sillett and South American canopy expert Paul Donahue) installed a steel cable "collar" around Luna's main trunk 100 feet above the ground. Four cables radiate from this collar and are attached with turnbuckles to four remote anchor points 100-150 feet away. With this cable assembly in place, Luna should be able to withstand the fiercest of storms.
Restoring Luna's biological health required a totally different approach. With the help of Cherokee Bear Medicine Healer Byron Jordan, we used local clay to seal the cut. Byron explained how Native Americans used healing clay on plants and animals since pre-historic times. This ended the initial phase of treatment.
I continue to visit and monitor Luna at least once each month. The clay needs repacking every few months, as it dries, cracks, then gets washed by rain. The cables needed adjusting and tightening once last summer.
Most important, I continue to watch Luna's overall health. The biologists told us that, due to the loss of moisture and nutrient flow, we should expect extensive dieback of Luna's foliage. It was predicted that Luna would lose her crown within two to five years. But they also reassured us that, while Luna could change dramatically, she might also continue to live for many (possibly hundreds) of years.
I take photographs of Luna's crown every month. In the summer of 2001, I documented the browning of needles at the very top of Luna. I thought I was watching the beginning of this predicted dieback. I appreciated Dennis Yniguez's reassuring words to understand how "Luna is responding with the wisdom of more than 100 million years of evolution" in order to regain her balance.
But as I continued watching Luna through the summer and into the dry months of fall, I learned that the wisdom Dennis spoke of also includes strength and resilience. Luna did not continue losing her needles. The browning I witnessed during the summer was the result of the annual loss of needles that happens to every conifer. Luna looks as green and lush as she did before the attack. She looks strong. Even the land within the three-acre circle that marks the "Luna Property" is looking better and better.
Julia Butterfly and her support team turned Luna into a worldwide symbol of the need to protect old growth forests. Ironically, the chain-saw attacker has broadened the meaning of Luna's symbolism. In the face of adversity, Luna represents balance, strength, and resilience.
The Power of Simplicity!
The next stories substantiate over time, the success of safe, simple Earth Medicine.
Luna Stays in our Thoughts and Hearts
Luna Update, Spring 2004
Luna Stays in our Thoughts and Hearts
Luna Update, Spring 2004
by Stuart Moskowitz
Four and a half years have passed since Julia climbed down from her two-year occupation of Luna. Three and a half years have passed since a still unknown vandal attacked Luna with a chain saw. Two years have passed since Luna's injury.
Even though time has passed, Luna stays in our thoughts and hearts. Calls, letters and emails inquiring about Luna's health continue coming to Circle of Life, Sanctuary Forest and those of us closely involved with her care. Even The Pacific Lumber Company regularly receives calls asking about Luna.
Sanctuary Forest is the Humboldt County land trust chosen by Julia to be trustee of the Luna Covenant. As trustee, Sanctuary Forest is responsible, in perpetuity, for monitoring Luna's health and maintaining the agreement between Julia Butterfly and Pacific Lumber. As a director on the Sanctuary Forest board, I, Stuart Moskowitz, started making regular monthly trips to Luna after Julia came down to the ground.
In the beginning, the visits to Luna were inspiring, but uneventful; within a few months the visits settled into a routine. Then came the Thanksgiving 2000 chain saw attack. Instantly, I found myself at the center of structural, biological and spiritual efforts to stabilize Luna.
Literally overnight, a team of volunteer arborists, engineers, tree climbers and biologists came together and designed, manufactured and installed steel brackets to stabilize the cut. This was achieved with full cooperation and assistance from Pacific Lumber and the California Department of Forestry. Over the next two months, a steel cable "collar" and guy wires added more strength to the stabilization efforts. It's important to note here that this work was done with conservationists, government agents, scientists and loggers working side by side.
How to approach Luna's biological and spiritual health prompted much discussion between Julia, myself and our team of experts, which now included a Cherokee Bear Medicine healer, Byron Utah Jordan. Luna had a three-foot deep cut that went more than half way around her thirty eight-foot circumference. Along with two old, deep burn scars, only about 10% of her cambium layer remained intact. The cambium is the means by which a tree raises nutrients from its roots up to its canopy. We decided to pack the cut with clay gathered from a nearby natural deposit. Under Byron's direction, we made the clay into mud mixing in bear saliva (collected with help from a nearby zoo). Native American healers have long known of clay and bear saliva as powerful healing agents. Byron (who's mixed-blood Cherokee) said "In my Clan's traditions Bears are known as great healers and great teachers of healing. Bear saliva is known scientifically today to be full of amazing medicinal compounds of all sorts." We also applied, (and I continue to apply) "Essence of Luna", a tincture made by Julia during her treesit.
Details of this work are in the Spring 2002 Circle of Life newsletter, which can be downloaded from the Circle of Life website.
At the time we were doing this work, our lead biologist, Dr Steve Sillett, predicted that, because of Luna's injuries, she would die from the top down and within two years he expected that Luna would begin looking like a dead snag. He and I both teach at Humboldt State University and whenever our paths cross the discussion usually centers on Luna. I continue reporting to him (and now in the pages of this newsletter) that Luna looks as healthy as she did before she was attacked. Each year Luna's branches glow with new spring growth from her base to the top of her canopy!
The scientists are puzzled. Could it be the Bear medicine? Could it be because Luna is in the hearts and prayers of so many people around the world?
Dr. Sillett recently returned to climb Luna to gather samples of her foliage. Luna, besides being a worldwide symbol of the need to protect old growth forests, now is an outdoor laboratory.
Winter storms blew fierce this year. During my last visit this February, I found numerous fallen limbs. I also discovered the clay partially squeezed from the cut; evidence that Luna must have been swaying heavily in the wind. I'll be watching her even closer this spring.
Environmentalists and scientists are not the only ones watching Luna. At least two books on sacred and spiritual sites are being written that include Luna. Also, Tia Galipeau, a certified Jungian analyst is studying, exploring and writing about Luna's mythological and psychological meanings.
I remember my daughters saying to me: "Dad, it's just a tree!" I will respond to them here by saying that, yes, Luna is just a tree who was chosen to become a world famous symbol. Just like people and for reasons often unknown, some of us are chosen to speak on behalf of others. Luna's job has been to teach us about the health of our forests. Even with no public access, she is watched and studied from afar. As long as Luna stands, and even after we are gone and Luna eventually falls, we have much to learn from Luna.
Below is an excerpt from the most recent of Stuart Moskowitz's "Notes From Luna, Spring 2007": http://www.sanctuaryforest.org/pages/page-45
from Notes From Luna, Spring 2007 "Today is an easy day of monitoring. No changes are evident since I was last here 10 weeks ago. The brackets and cables that were installed immediately following the attack show signs of rust, but still look strong. The clay mixture pressed into the cut as directed by a Cherokee Earth Medicine Healer shows signs of cracking, so this summer will be a good time to repack the clay. Today , however, is a good day just to lean back against Luna and think and write and nap and eat.
I last wrote three years ago in spring 2004. Now, in early spring 2007, I'm confident that Luna will show the first signs of this year's growth within weeks, as she has done each year previously. Seven years ago, Dr. Steve Sillett, the Redwood Canopy Biologist at Humboldt State University, predicted that Luna would die back from the top down and that within 2-5 years, she'd look more and more like a snag. Well, sometimes the experts don't have all the answers. Yes, Luna does have some dead branches at the very top, but this is quite normal; ancient Redwoods lose branches every year. Overall, she looks as healthy as she did prior to the attack. So seven years later, I'm confident that at my next visit in May or June I'll see plenty of new growth replacing the dieback."
"I am very proud to be part of the team of Luna's caretakers." ~ Byron Utah Jordan
If you would like to support this important work, please make a donation of support for Earth Medicine. Byron, who has done this work for 25 years, does not charge for this work and he refuses no one service. It is done in the spirit of the gadugi tradition, in true spiritual service to others. Your donations make this help possible for more people, plants and animals. The whole planet needs healing . . . . Thank you, wado, sgii
A Little Cultural History
Bear Medicine Tradition Lives
A traditional Cherokee Bear Warrior/Healer of my clan would carry in his or her bandolier bag a very few simple medicines that have many applications for many possible problems ranging from snake and spider bite venoms to wounds, traumas and illnesses of a variety of types. This great wisdom and knowledge lives on in in the practice of Earth Medicine.... Let's keep it alive. donadagohvi, Yona