Luna – Why Nature Matters
A look back at my first visit to the giant redwood tree named Luna
Hello my friends, welcome to Chapter 28 of Sanguine Stories. Today I’ll be sharing with you a story that I wrote nearly 10 years ago about a tree named Luna. Here’s a little backstory just to catch you up:
In the winter of 2008, I made my first visit to Luna, the tree that was given worldwide attention by Julia Butterfly Hill. It was 20 years ago on December 10th, 1997, that she climbed this giant redwood named Luna and didn’t come down for 738 days. I was so very fortunate to make 4 visits to Luna before moving to Costa Rica.
My trips to Luna, this awe-inspiring tree, are one of only a few things that I miss about living in California. Walking into Luna’s grove is more like walking into sacred space, a sanctuary of harmony. If you’ve listened to Chapter 13 of this podcast, you know that I am not a woo-woo person.
But there is something special about Luna’s grove, there’s an energy there.
Maybe it’s just being in such a natural, untouched place, or the people who were there with me each year. But I really do think it’s Luna. She has a presence. It’s from my visits there that I came up with my three core words – strength, courage and presence. That is what she emanates. I know, it may sound strange that a tree can emanate human qualities or characteristics but she did.
Okay so onto my first visit to Luna…
Luna sits on what was at the time, Pacific Lumber land (PALCO), it’s still owned by a private company and she can only be visited by obtaining approval and going with an approved escort.
I met Luna’s caretaker, Stuart Moskowitz from Sanctuary Forest, which is a nonprofit organization that holds the covenant agreement between Julia and Pacific Lumber. I met him at the gates and we were accompanied by a woman who was doing her PhD dissertation on Iconic Trees.
The day, for me, was filled with a range of emotions. To be in the present moment, in this natural cathedral, was incredible. As we hiked along the top of the hill where the Stafford landslide occurred in 1997, I thought about the lives that were damaged and the 7 homes that were totaled. And to see the hillsides that have been clearcut and continue to be so that our society’s “needs” can be met. In some ways, it was really overwhelming.
Since we were being accompanied by Stuart, we were able to take a 4WD about halfway up the hill and then we hiked on an unmarked trail—to imagine Julia’s ground support going from the bottom up with 70 pounds of supplies on their backs was also overwhelming—the hike was hard and it was muddy and it was steep and there was an overabundance of growth that we had to wade through.
This was no regular hiking trail, it was pure forest.
I can’t even imagine attempting it in the dark, like Julia’s ground crew did… When we got close, Stuart let us go on ahead of him to spend a few quiet moments of solitude as we entered Luna’s grove.
When I first entered, I felt as though I was in a daze. I took a picture of what I just thought was a really pretty tree. It was only after when I looked at the screen that I saw the braces and then I looked beyond the camera lens and I saw Luna clearly. I saw the cut, from when she was attacked shortly after Julia cam down, that cut extends into her trunk by three feet and I saw her beautiful bark and branches that were so full of life.
To see the tree that created so much attention: I leaned my head back and she just towered overhead; I looked over to the right to see the cables above that help support her and to look down at her base and I looked down at her base again to see the braces that hold her together.
We settled in and Stuart brought us a cotton pillowcase full of clay and we knelt at Luna’s base and filled in her wounds where the previously laid clay had dried up. She has two “goosepens” on opposite sides of each other that were (created from fires) and are nice alcoves where you can sit, especially when it starts to rain. We enjoyed a vegetarian meal in one of them and Stuart told us stories about the treesit, the attack and provided us with more information about Luna and her grove.
As for the weather, in the four hours that we spent there we had sunshine, fog, rain and what I can only assume was sleet. I’m more of a Southern California beach girl so snow and ice and sleet, I didn’t really know it was – it wasn’t quite hail but it wasn’t quite snow either. So I’m going with sleet.
Julia lived on a 6×8 platform high above the ground for seven hundred and thirty-eight days, in that type of weather—think about that! Think about that commitment, that courage and that perseverance. And yet I’ve heard people say to her – I could never do what you did – and she responds – this wasn’t something she had ever planned or thought she would do either!
We then walked up the hill to three of the four cables to check on them. One is in the ground—buried 27 feet down. The other two are bolted through large trees (and these methods were all researched and great care was taken to protect and preserve the supporting trees). Our final ascent was to the top of the hill—where we could see the tip of Luna. That was when the sleet came down.
Why Nature Matters
Luna, and many other redwood trees, are over 1,000 years old—imagine what they have seen. Imagine who has passed through these forests over the ages. Imagine future generations having the opportunity to experience these amazing trees—Luna stands at almost 200 feet tall with a diameter of 12 feet and is home to so many of nature’s creations.
There are only 4% of these old-growth redwood forests left in the nation and all of them are right here in Northern California. And they are still being cut down—a precious natural and national treasure that we cannot get back in our lifetime or even several generations from now.
I like redwood trees not just because of their beauty but also because of their resilience. One would think, looking at these trees, these gigantic trees, that their roots are very deep in order to ground them and keep them steady as they stand so tall. But that’s not the case. The roots of redwood trees are actually very shallow, just below the surface.
So, how do they maintain their strength? How have they survived thousands of years?
Their roots connect to the other tree roots in their area, building a firm and solid foundation for each of them to be in community and stand together. That’s why it was so important that there was a grove for Luna, that she wasn’t the only one saved in that area.
What if our society did that? What if we linked to one another rather than trying to go it alone? We can learn so much from the natural world, but not only do we have to open our mind to these concepts … we also need these resources, these teachers, to remaining alive and standing if we’re going to do so.
Although visiting Luna is prohibited, and considered trespassing, there are many other beautiful redwood forests that you can easily visit in Northern California—they extend up from the Central Coast to the Oregon border.
Sanctuary Forest also offers programs and I recommend checking out their website for more information and to learn how you can support their efforts to preserve these incredible creations of nature. Their site is www.sanctuaryforest.org.
To learn more about Luna and Julia’s movement to save these forests, please read her book, The Legacy of Luna. Her site is juliabutterfly.com.
And I ask you to please consider your choices—you don’t have to ignore what is happening or live in neutral…you can be the change by your choice, simple choices:
Use recycled paper, learn more about other paper options such as banana, coffee and elephant poop paper (which at the time was a success with my 6 year old nephew). Use a reusable mug the next time you visit your local coffee shop. Bring your own cloth napkin when you grab your morning bagel and bring a reusable bag to the grocery store.
Really, are these choices all that hard to do? Can you try one this week and see if it can become a habit—a habit that’s good for you, your community and our precious planet?
My friends, thank you for joining me today. I hope I’ve inspired some ideas in you to think about the choices you make and actions you take, in your everyday.
As I wrap up, I’d like to take a moment to honor all the people that came together to make sure that Luna remains standing and is a symbol of hope and as I said, strength, courage and presence. Until next time, be simply sanguine.
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Chrissy Gruninger is an author and mindset coach. She mentors people on how to live their ONE beautiful life, wherever they may be. Her latest book, Lost and Found in the Land of Mañana explores her life in Costa Rica and both the challenges of working and living abroad as well as the beautiful life we can create from those experiences.
She loves her rainforest beach shack in Costa Rica, the sunshine and the rain and passionately believes that through intentional actions we create more happiness, health and harmony in the world.
Her goal: to empower others to thrive in an imperfect world.