Eighty feet in the air, a slight breeze is enough to rock the platform that I call home, and the tarp—which acts as a glorified oven during the daylight hours, and functions at best as a leaky mock-shelter during periods of rain—catches the wind like a parachute, adding the sound of chaotic flapping to the air. I anxiously adjust my position to restore blood flow to my legs and maneuver buckets of food around to make more room for movement. Having spent some time behind bars for previous nonviolent direct actions, the limited mobility reminds me of a smaller but more scenic jail cell. The sound of chainsaws, falling trees, and heavy machinery masticating the earth below manages to ground me again in my cause, and a sense of determination and hope colors the pervasive feeling of unease that results from fighting a fight that at times, I confess, seems un-winnable.
Since I first ascended, I’ve become accustomed to the politics of the wasps that visit my platform—their frequent patrolling, quests for sustenance, and the less than graceful tussles through the firmament that bear a slight resemblance to an airborne wrestling match. These reddish bodies, which had previously inspired a hybrid sense of caution and dread, now invoke the feeling of a neighbor who minds their own business, and only wishes that I follow suit. I’ve watched, with patient curiosity, the inching of caterpillars along tree-bark and the marching of ants across branches. I’ve listened, in the hours of the night free from the howls of TransCanada’s machinery, to the chorus of owl and insect alike. I’ve ruffled through my bag of limited entertainments—books, playing cards, small lengths of accessory cord to practice knots—and sang absent-mindedly the lyrics of familiar songs in an effort to pass the hours and ease my mind.
The trees outside of our fortifications are felled with the nonchalance of workday obligations, reduced to a simple task in a now-habitual procedure. I can’t help but contrast the barren moonscape beyond the timber scaffolding with my memories of those trails now-past, of the beauty berries and muscadine grapes that fell to the ground perfectly ripe, how breaks in oak leaves and branches framed constellations whose names I learned in my childhood. The piles of slash pine and fell oak rest atop a newly made desert, with hidden edibles and wild medicines whose names I’ve yet to learn crushed beneath them. I imagine the roots of hundred-year-old trees grasping earth like clenched hands as they are torn from the ground. I wonder what else a tree could do to resist.
The ground swarms with the introduction of a new creature, and a safe descent is made impossible. The constant presence of police officers and workers—from the same department who has tazed and pepper-sprayed my friends in their own acts of resistance, from the same company that actively encouraged the infliction of those injuries—offers up a tangible indication that our actions are making a difference. The presence of floodlights—meant to disrupt our sleeping patterns and wear us down—and other intimidation methods prove that where both megaphones and the ballot box failed, our energies are not being wasted. Looking around at the tops of the trees left standing, I dream of other folks joining this struggle, taking to the trees, and taking a stand against a project which amounts to sheer ecocide. I dream of these people doing whatever it takes to make sure that our water, our air, and our planet can sustain both human and non-human life. I imagine that the escalating war on the natural world, indigenous communities, and the descendants of settlers on this continent, will finally illicit an impassioned and strategic resistance. I dream of a culture of resistance that speaks both to logic and empathy…that moves the scientist, the shaman, and the schoolchild to resist.
Somewhat of a routine is established to augment the hours of boredom and worry. The workers hired by TransCanada to destroy this land, and the cops tasked with facilitating this destruction, know their jobs. And we, with the chosen duty to protect this land and the life of the forest that we’ve become so intimately acquainted with, know our jobs as well.
And we’re not going to give up without one hell of a fight.