Community in the Trees
Offered with respect for Fairy Creek Tree Defenders. Text by Coral Poser. Photos by Michael Poser (October 2021).
I hear this so often in my encounters with neighbours, cashiers and gas
attendants. The activities that used to ignite delight aren’t so
delightful anymore…or are gone. Some days the world that I wake up into
feels lonely and empty.
I have decided that the most loving thing that I can do for myself is
to break out of my bubble and to track inspiration where I can find it.
To fill my life with warm people, to take a stand for what I believe
in….to try things I never dreamed of doing.
Two months ago I moved out of a townhouse into a cohousing community.
Cohousing is an intentional lifestyle that originated in the 1980’s in
Denmark. It is a model that attempts to blend our lives as individuals
with our tribal need for community. My hope was that this self-selected
community would be more skillful in harmonious connections. I was
curious to explore if I can live this way.
A fellow co-houser sent around an email about Fairy Creek:
“Fairy Creek is the most
incredible place to be. It’s like living in a perfect community.
Everyone shares. They work together, they live together, they laugh
together, cry together and what is going on there is history. It is
such a place of magic. It is the best of what we can be and I have
never witnessed this before. I will recommend to anyone: do not miss
Hmmm... A perfect community? everyone shares? Highly unlikely but my
curiosity is piqued. Even our fledgling cohousing community already has
its cliques, its complainers, its “somebody should really look after
this because I don’t want to” attitudes... Many of the unpleasant
aspects of human nature are plainly in view.
We are a fifty-plus demographic. Maybe younger folk are more attuned to creating a “utopia” that actually functions?
I decide to go see for myself.
June brings me an impromptu visit from brother Mike and his Jeep
Cherokee, the perfect vehicle for going back-country. Gingerly, I ask
Mike if he is interested in accompanying me on an adventure, to explore
this community and to hike amongst the ancients. Mike has already
researched what the media has to say about the Fairy Creek blockade and
the media infamous “Tree Defenders”.
“I don’t want to be arrested!” he says repeatedly. “Ok, let’s go!”
We hatch a plan that includes transporting food and supplies. Humans,
good, bad, partly both…need to eat. We load up the Jeep with pop (not
so healthy but easy caffeine), juice, eggs, money donated from another
co-houser and a woven hammock that belonged to my partner who was
arrested during the Clayoquot Sound blockade!
The highway up to Port Renfrew is being resurfaced in sections so it is
a hurry up and wait sort of journey. We track down Fairy Creek
headquarters with ease.
An ardent young volunteer clasping a clipboard to her chest approaches us.
“Hello! What are your intentions?”
“To drop off donations.”
She grins, waves us in whilst her eyes nervously scan the highway the whole time.
“What’s up?” Mike asks.
“Oh, some angry people stormed our camp this morning and smashed a bunch of our windshields,” she advises.
We drive through an impressive “hard block” installation built from
wire cables, poured concrete, logs, branches, old cars and sometimes
people. They are aimed at slowing down the business-as-usual logging
industry. Excavators have to drill out the humans and all the materials
need to be disassembled before their vehicles can pass. Pain in the ass
work. Our vehicle passes easily under the archway…. but a loaded
logging truck or a big piece of machinery maybe not so much.
I see my first “sleeping dragon”…a human lying belly down on the
logging road with their arm attached to a pipe dug beneath ground. A
sense of their personal vulnerability in the face of dogged persistence
runs through me.
We arrive at the gravel pit, park, and wander in. There is a circle of
stones surrounding a tarred area with a lit fire. The fire feels
sacred. A sign nearby says “215”. The circle has strong energy even
though there are no people gathered there. A tribute to the recently
discovered 215 bodies of First Nations children.
It occurs to me that there is a similarity to how we treat other
cultures and what we are allowing to happen to our ancient forests.
Humans are capable of such mindless action.
We drive on past several cars with smashed windshields, past the info
centre…where a volunteer pops out to ask if he can help us find what we
are looking for...past a camp kitchen…where volunteers are preparing
food in a most jovial vibe…past a media depot, a first aid teepee….to
the donation container. We unload our cargo into the hands of sweet
individuals who express much gratitude for our visit to their camp.
Particularly pleased to see eggs in their midst!
People come and go purposefully. Though the dress attire is reminiscent
of 1960’s, the vibe is different. This is no flower-power scene, this
is a guerrilla war zone! People are gathered in circles strategizing
how to reinforce mountain camps with supplies and people. They share
their lessons from several failed attempts.
After a time here, Mike and I decide that we both need to stand in the
presence of the ancients while we can…so we drive back down the road
towards Avatar Grove.
We are stopped before our destination by security guards and the police who instruct us to park our car and to continue on foot.
“There is a police blockade ahead. If you continue on you do so at your own risk.”
Mike and I exchange sibling glances. We opt to walk and arrive at a
fork in the road. A group of animated people are heading towards us.
When we stop to greet them, I recognize my ex-family doctors amongst
“If you go left here to Avatar Grove, you will have just another
tourist experience. If you go right, you will be part of history,” my
ex-doctor urges me.
We head right. We pass a swath of forest containing old growth that has
been clear-cut. It is a total mess! I feel the heat of anger swell my
We come to another fork, stop to figure out our way. Drumbeats and a woman’s haunting voice calling out her prayer guide us on.
Soon we arrive at a small circle of Tree Defenders and police cars.
There are two First Nation people detained in the vehicles. They are
being read their rights. Shouldn’t it be the other way round? A tense
conversation erupts over the whereabouts of confiscated backpacks from
an earlier detainment. Who wants to deal with having their stuff
taken?...Especially when survival is on the radar. The police claim
their innocence. A media person videos the entire interaction.
that moment I am struck how we can become so entangled within the roles
that we assume. Some by free choice, others by the necessity of
livelihood. Our perspectives ignite each other without anyone fully
grasping the greater picture. Some of the police have children the same
age as some of the Tree Defenders.
Wild Raven (Tree Defenders go by camp names to protect their identity)
invites Mike and me to join them in their walk up to the police
blockade. It is a hot climb. Someone is carrying another person’s huge
pack to give them a break. We stop in the shade. Wild Raven rummages in
her pack and pulls up a bag of dehydrated coconut flakes. She shares
this with all of us. Another woman reaches for our water bottles and
stumbles down to a nearby creek to fill them up.
I am part of something bigger than myself just by showing up this day.
This group I am in is not defined by ego or status. It feels good to be
nourished in this way.
Consolation and encouragement
|A line of sturdy, tattooed RCMP standing shoulder to shoulder across
the logging road come into view. Less than a metre in front of them a
motley crew of Tree Defenders are standing, some silently, some shaming
the police. Emotions run high.
the line of cops, another group of Tree Defenders are waiting to be
handcuffed and escorted into waiting police cars. They are taken to the
police station in Cowichan Lake or Port Renfrew. Then they are
released. Someone attempts to pick them up and bring them back to camp.
After two such detainments, protesters are arrested and discharged on bail.
Each time a handcuffed
defender walks through the police line a great hullabaloo ensues. These
arrests mark successes in the defenders’ work to slow down the
decimation of old growth forest. It is a game that no one appears to be
winning. The media has to report the number of arrests whilst Teal
Jones’ loggers continue to cut into the old growth.
Mike and I listen with curiosity to stories from defenders who have
visited the mountain camps. They say they witnessed felled ancients
that were left lying, unharvested, on the ground. What loggers do in a
days work goes on high above government buildings where formal
agreements are made.
What I glean from listening to the defenders is that these old trees
are part of an intricate and interconnected ecosystem, a community,
that supports a flow of wildlife and flora. Once destroyed who knows
what the domino effect could be.
Arrest with victory
trees have a big role in slowing global climate change. There is an
intelligence coded into the forests that money will never replace.
Mike and I walk down the mountain completely amazed by what we have
witnessed. This is a visceral awakening that is a world apart from
reading FB posts on my iPad!
Months elapse which allows us both time to integrate and to ground.
Mike and I send each other Fairy Creek articles and posts...trying to
fill in our understanding about what has happened out there…what is
Thanksgiving arrives and with it another visit from brother Mike. This
time he asks me if I want to pay Fairy Creek another visit. In the
intervening months RCMP raids have completely levelled what I described
of HQ camp.
The present camp is in the same location. It is smaller and less
sophisticated. The new camp is filled with different faces. People move
||We walk in from the highway. Mike carries our box of food donations. I walk in with a bag of potatoes in each hand.
Tiger, one of the Tree Defenders, asks, “Is your whole box filled with potatoes?”
Actually it isn’t. We bought supplies thinking about nourishment, simplicity, and joy of taste.
The camp vibe is different this time. It is October. It is wet and
damp. The cool chill in the air speaks of the winter that will soon
arrive in the mountains.
We empty our hands and walk up the logging road to the first “hard
block” under construction. On our trek up, we walk past a number of
obstacles…stumps, branches, big rocks…set on the road to hinder easy
After an emotional day of
arrests, Tree Defenders de-stress with a game of Ninja, a warrior game
of stealth and strategy. RCMP line watches from a distance while
an officer videos.
People are feverishly hammering down the heavy limbs and scrap wood
that make a “beaver dam”. This time they build right across the road
leaving no corridor for RCMP on quads to skirt by. It is hard to take
in the whole structure, let alone process all the details.
Buried deep beneath the central tangle of timber is an old vehicle. Inside the car is a person.
Behind the “hard block” is a tripod of super tall trees all roped
together. There is a tarped platform built on the very top. Dangling
over the edge of the platform, I can see one leg and one boot.
Behind the tripod is another “sleeping dragon”. A man is lying fast
asleep in the middle of the road. It is raining. He is covered by a
tarp. Talk about living vulnerably!
Mike and I walk further. We pass another two similar tripods. We see people repairing holes in their clothing.
|They sit around fires as they work and rest. Some greet us friendly, others are more guarded.
Mike thinks we may look like cops to them!
The new beaver dam ironically “welcomes back” the RCMP.
"Sleeping dragon” defender lies under tarp
|We climb on until we reach another patch of clear cut. Large and tiny
red dresses are hung on hangers from the riffraff that is left on the
forest floor after the trees are taken away. Dusk throws a shadowed
pattern over the land. Someone has laid down circles of rocks to make a
labyrinth. In the centre is a stack of wood ready for burning. A fine
place to meditate!
Mike and I go our
own way to explore. It is hard not to feel the messages sent out by
these weathered red dresses, each one a testimony to a First Nations
woman or child who is now missing from their lives. I feel great
sadness. I am culturally implicated in this racist tragedy no matter
how much I try to hold onto my innocence. It is time to drive home.
On our way out of camp, Tiger stops us to recommend that we return the
following day to bear witness to the expected RCMP enforcements. Mike
and I debate the whole drive home as to whether we want to return. We
are already exhausted even from one day.
It is really incredible to witness the tenacity of these defenders.
The alarm goes off at 5 am. We both grumble and rise to dress.
Fairy Creek camp
is coming to life upon our arrival. All of a sudden we are no longer
just visitors. We are tasked by Ripple, who runs the kitchen
activities, with inventing a way to clean yesterday’s supper dishes.
The heap of unrinsed pots and pans are sitting in a tub filled with
freezing cold grey water. There is a huge pot of dishwater on the
campfire waiting to boil.
cleaning dishes? Especially other peoples’ leftovers? We accept the
task and strangely we feel good about it. I do a speedy pre-rinse and
freeze my fingertips. Remembering my cohouser’s comment about Fairy
Creek’s perfect community I smirk to observe only one person rinse,
clean and bleach their own gear!
We are invited to join in on a meeting circle: a guided meditation, a
wise suggestion to inquire into how people are feeling under their
stoic masks, an invitation to name what camp life is teaching them and
finally a division of tasks needed for the day.
There is no camp manager as such. The idea seems to be that each person
must find their own way to contribute. Meetings are randomly announced
in various locations at various times. Chaos is a constant companion.
Chaos the devil and chaos the midwife.
How does this way
of living help build a solid, sustainable focus? I am not clear on
this. I do hear quite a few people remark upon the futility of Fairy
Creek tactics. The real game changer has to come from upgrading BC
logging industry practices as a result of increasing public pressure on
legislators. The only way that the legislature is going to move is if
Nonetheless, there is something remarkable happening
amidst the chaos of Fairy Creek. Most Tree Defenders are young people.
Yes, there are plenty of doobies passing between hands. Probably other
feel-good activities are going on as well. It is life! A compassionate
and passionate energy is also being nurtured here. There are lots of
hugs. This is positive!
No RCMP show up this day. The strange tension in the air that people create to prepare for the unexpected lingers on anyways.
I receive 2 emails from Mike this week. The first one: “Let’s return to
Fairy Creek in winter so we can fully witness their story.”
The second one: https://fundrazr.com/last_stand_for_forests?ref=ab_4AJXQ4_ab_1eu3r38DIV81eu3r38DIV8
Coincidentally we both donate exactly the same amount. This is but a
drop in the bucket for what is needed to fund current legal proceedings.
So back to the email from my co-houser which prompted this exploration.
I have to say that Fairy Creek is no more a perfect community than my
co-housing. Both are filled with daily challenges (i.e. Are we washing
our own dishes?) as well as grand schemes. My desire to live in a
utopian community is being replaced by learning to accept each moment,
no matter what.
These visits to Fairy Creek are changing my relationship with my
brother. We are exploring something that we both feel strongly about.
We are doing this together. Even though we don’t understand all that is
happening on all the different levels, it doesn’t matter. We show up!
I reflect upon what else I feel passionate about in my life. Am I showing up there too? Covid-19 be damned! Yes I am!
Coral and Mike welcome your comments and feedback - click to email them