Home | Music & Lyrics | Bio | Tours | Music Links | Photos | Prose | Contact Us
  << back 
 Darryl Cherney Music 

The Bird and the Tree

I have loved Judi Bari for as long as I’ve known her. We met, fell in love and combined organizing efforts for redwood preservation in early 1988. I used to refer to us as the bird and the tree. I was the bird, always flying about the country, playing music, my nervous energy constantly sending me toward some new required destination. Judi was the tree. She remained in Mendocino County as much as possible, raising her two young children yet ferociously organizing massive numbers of people through her numerous, effective mailings, phone calls, press releases and her feisty, eloquent appearances at demonstrations.

As our romance was ending and our campaign for a Redwood Summer was just getting under way, a pipe bomb exploded under the seat of Judi’s car as we traveled together in Oakland on May 24, 1990. We were on an organizing roadshow in which I sang, played guitar and showed slides while Judi played fiddle and speechified in her dynamic, humorous manner that has now become legendary. We had decided to take to the road a bit to get away from the dozens of death threats we had been receiving.

Judi was almost killed. The pipe bomb someone placed under her seat most likely the previous night fractured her pelvis in 10 places, paralyzed her right leg, pulverized and dislocated her two lower vertebrae and impaled her on a car seat spring. She suffered internal damage as well. Then the FBI and Oakland Police (OPD) showed up and accused us both of knowingly transporting the bomb. We were both thrown in jail as the media repeated the FBI’s lies, tarnishing our reputations as peaceful activists, as well as that of the whole Earth First! movement. Someone had tried to cut down the tree. They almost succeeded.

For the bird’s part, I emerged relatively unscathed, with only minor injuries. The bomb blast was deflected away from me by the hump over the transmission in the middle of the car.

Since that time, Judi and I have had a rocky but constant relationship. We are suing the FBI and OPD together. We’ve continued to organize huge rallies for the Headwaters Redwood Forest and record numbers have turned out over the last two years. Few know that Judi goes to sleep every night suffering excruciating pain from her nerve endings that want to regenerate but can’t. She says it’s like electric shocks zapping her all night long. She hasn't been looking forward to growing old.

This year, 1996, the demonstrations have been colossal. Over one hundred activists constantly keep our Humboldt County, California base camp abuzz. One thousand thirty three people were arrested on September 15th alone, and almost two hundred more through the month of October.

Sometime in mid-October I began to receive premonitions that something bad was going to happen. The same day that I found out the sheriff’s were literally tailing me for suspicion of "conspiracy" as I purchased sleeping bags, wool socks and power bars for base camp, I struck a barn owl on my way home to my mountain retreat. A few days later I struck an old, shaggy deaf dog broadside on Highway 101 at a good clip. There was no sign of the body when I returned. A day or two later I found an old deer skull sitting in the center of my dirt driveway.

The capper occurred the next night when I arrived at base camp at Williams Grove in Myers Flat, which is comprised of huge, ancient redwoods. As I shut my car door at about 10 pm on that windless, warm night, an old growth redwood crashed to the ground with a thunderous impact. The camp stood still, then instinctively circled up and shared its collectively thoughts and prayers.

I told this same story to the circle that night, expressing my fears that death was on the horizon. I warned everyone to be careful. Tensions between us, the cops and the loggers were at a high. I was afraid that one of our activists might get killed or badly injured. An ancient redwood falling in your presence is not to be taken lightly. I then repeated an old, wise expression I had heard. "The best prophets are those whose prophesies do not come true." Our peak activity, however, did not offer much time for serious contemplation. We went back to our demonstration planning that night.

I struck one or two more animals after that. I walloped a deer on the head coming around slowly a blind curve on a steep, 75 degree Mendocino hill. It vanished into the night, as well. Then on Thursday, October 31, Halloween, I believe I struck a cat that dashed between my front and rear tires near Berkeley, where I was staying following an urban mascarade action in San Francisco. I couldn’t find that animal either.

Then on November 1st, 1996, I learned the unthinkable. Judi Bari, the root of all our large-scale protests, had been diagnosed with breast cancer that had metastasized to her liver. The prognosis is not good. The tree is in peril.

All of what seemed important, the demonstrations, the people in jail, even the falling trees became irrelevant. The humanity of our movement, the shortness of our lives, the fear of facing the future stood before me (and all of us) like a brick wall we were about to hit at ninety miles an hour. I cried, and cried, and cried. Mostly alone. The bird was still on the road. And it was the music on the car stereo that got to me every time. It was as though every song was written for Judi. When facing my friends, I was stoic. I felt mostly shock or nothing. But those times alone, in flight at night. That when it gets to me.

And I wonder. Will this bird ever land? And when it decides to, will there be a tree left standing for it to call home? And when do we stop and say that the people are trees too. That we are being cut down by the poisons and the bombs and our dysfunction and the pain of being left alone in the world, separated from our tribes, divided and conquered. And how will we ever get back? Or forward? My resolve is strengthen, though my heart is broken. The bird still loves the tree.

Judi is alive and fighting. You can send your donations to her and her two girls to the Judi Bari Trust Fund, 106 W. Standley Street, Ukiah, CA 95482.



  Home | Music & Lyrics | Bio | Tours | Music Links | Photos | Prose | Contact Us