What I Learned From The Man in the Tree


I am teaching myself how to play the ukulele…because, why not? It makes me happy, and it makes the kids happy to play with me. And that is kind of the point of life, to be happy together, isn’t it?

Sometimes, though, you wonder if the big idea of happiness is just a pipe dream of sunshine and rainbows.

If you are in the Seattle area, you have heard about the Man in Tree. (link)

Not only have you heard about him, but you watched him sitting in the tree for a full 24 hours…with the rest of us.

It was a crazy story.

First, a (most likely) homeless man climbs 7 stories up into a sequoia redwood which California had shipped from its lovely forest to the evergreen forest of Washington; and plunked it right in front of Macy’s in downtown Seattle.

After he very quietly climbed to an amazing perch at the very top, he looked down upon the police officers who were asking him to come down.

And he threw all of his apples at them.

After he ran out of apple ammunition, he gathered the small pinecones around him and threw the pinecones at them.

When he ran out of pinecones, he snapped off the branches within his reach above him and threw the branches at the ground.

The local newsstation was on the scene and had a livefeed of the apple/pinecone/tree branch volleying. We all really thought he would have fallen, or slipped, or realized he had just climbed to the top of a ridiculously tall tree…and come down. At some point.

A few hours passed, and he wasn’t budging. I was certain he would come down by some measure when I left to pick up the kids from school, or when I went to take a shower, or when I left to fetch more coffee: but no, he stayed up there quite content with his spot in the sun.

Firefighters pulled their huge ladder up next to the tree and tried talking to him for quite a few hours. They had to pull the truck away once night began, but the police opened an office window nearby to hang out in.

5 hours passed. 8 hours passed. 11 hours passed…and the police, medics and firefighters were waiting very patiently for him to come down.

It was bewildering to see the monumental composure they had with this man, who had taken to yelling at the people beneath his tree. I don’t know what the standard procedures are for police, so it seemed like a typical response to this occasion would be to get him out of the tree, perhaps by a variety of means.

At one point, the news crew interviewed a man walking by who happened to be a 27 year police and military veteran. His opinion of the situation, given his background, was that the police were accruing too much overtime, and they were wasting the city budget by their patient actions. “They should use a hose or bean bags, and they should have gotten him out after 3 or 4 hours.

Who knows, maybe that does sound reasonable. It sounded pretty reasonable, to get the guy out of the tree before he hurt himself or anyone else. That seemed to be the entire purpose of the police/medic/firefighters’ presence there in the first place.

But that never happened.

15 hours pass. 20 hours pass. The 24 hour point is looming on the clock…

cannot believe this guy is still up there. He hasn’t tottered or tripped or slipped or fallen. He is still going strong, and just hanging out in a nest he wove between the branches. The news crew was there the whole time, just chatting with each other about their equipment or about the things happening around them:

“We can see it all…that’s what $80,000 of zoom lens will buy ‘ya.”

“As per usual, a small dog is trying to intimidate a much larger dog….let’s watch”

“I wonder what those birds think as they fly by”

“Oh, he just moved his leg a little”

‘Oh, despite your giant energy drink you have here, would you like me to get you a coffee,” said reporter to camera man. “I mean, I’ll get you a coffee.”

“Nature called and it didn’t go to voicemail….we know that happened.”

“I’m very tired, but it keeps going on and on.”

“She seems confused and stunned that she’s not allowed to jog into a police investigation” – on a woman who was trying to jog by the tree.

concluding with…

“If you were under the influence of something and sobered up up there; it would be terrifying.”


There was even a man and his goat who showed up, in order to encourage the Man in the Tree to come down peacefully:


Shane Coburn and Dear, his goat

In the end, the Man in the Tree climbed down on his own. He sat down and ate an apple he threw the previous day. The police were nearby, but not crowding him. They let him stand up, and walk over to the gurney by himself. The man with the red beanie laid down on the gurney and let the EMTs strap him in, gently, all the while the police were talking to him calmly.

They wheeled the gurney to the ambulance, loaded it inside, and drove rather unceremoniously to the hospital, where our fellow man would find help from people who could help him.

It was the most peaceful resolution to an already non-violent situation. Even though it took one whole day to get the man down, the officers determined that his life was worth more than their time.

So, it took a lot longer than everyone expected…but in the end, the man left with people who treated him with dignity and respect. He was in a safe environment surrounded by people he could trust.

Which is the most incredible and uplifting result we could have hoped for.

What I learned from The Man in the Tree, was that the world isn’t falling to pieces. Even when things go awry in our lives, the first response from authorities around us is not to determine that we are expendable. What I saw, while watching the live feed on my laptop in the safety of my home, was people coming around this man who was lost and helping him find a safe place.

Life isn’t always easy. Sometimes we find ourselves in small, or big, situations where we suddenly realize, this is not where I want to be in life. This isn’t what I had intended in the beginning. I thought I was making choices in my life that were the right choices.  I didn’t see the red flags, and all of a sudden I’m stuck up on a 70 foot tree in the middle of raining Seattle…

What is comforting about this story is that there are lots of people around who still believe that life can be sunshine and rainbows. I was certain there were more of us than the news’ reports, and here was a shining example that my notion was spot on.

We don’t need to crucify each other for mistakes we have made, and we can work together to make the situation better for everyone.

I still believe in sunshine and rainbows, even if you are stuck in the most unfortunate of circumstances. This isn’t a pipe dream for reality.

And I have the Man in the Tree, and the wonderful people around him, to prove it.





4 thoughts on “What I Learned From The Man in the Tree

  1. You are not gonna believe this. I know the guy with the goat. The goat’s name is Deer (I’m not kidding). The guy’s name is Erik. Erik is a local guy with some…um…challenges…who decided to do some traveling with Deer. I think they’re mostly hitchhiking/catching rides from here to there. We’ve seen him in photos at a Bernie Sanders parade somewhere out west. The guy gets around, in a Forrest Gump sort of way.

    The guy plopped down beside me in church once (held in a movie theatre) and proceeded to kick off his crusty shoes and talk back to the pastor. I can assure you it increased my prayer life. 😉


  2. Pingback: Homeschool Adventures: Seattle Day Trip – fiveintheforest

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