Dear friends of trees…we did it! On Saturday, May 14, 2011, about 40 of us Angel Oak Tree fans— plus the “Out On A Limb” (TreeSpirit documentary film) crew—made an unauthorized art photograph at The Angel Oak.
WHY?: To call attention to the Angel Oak’s being threatened by a large housing development.
See the final TreeSpirit photograph, “Angels,” and purchase a fine art print to enjoy—and support this and future TreeSpirit Project efforts: see “Angels”
We knew Charleston city police might be called to the scene. We did NOT expect them called before anyone’s clothing came off for the TreeSpirit photo. We had just 90 seconds to compose the photograph before the first young officer arrived. (Later he said all he saw as he drove up was “lots of naked butts running from the tree…”)
Yes, I tried to get a permit, but park rules exclude any gathering over 25 people, nudity or not. I was also denied after-hours access. We decided as a group to proceed anyway, just before closing, to cause the minimum disturbance. A handful of other park visitors on the scene were surprised or amused, but none were offended; not one lodged a complaint.
Our 2 goals were achieved: 1) to make an artwork celebrating the beauty of the Angel Oak, and; 2) to call attention to the planned housing project that would cut down most of The Angel Oak’s 40-acre surrounding forest and pave over an adjacent wetlands and irrevocably alter the surrounding rural environment. The issue is currently in court and public sentiment—which affects politicians’ actions—is critical.
SEE TV and news coverage of the event, click here.
• Charleston City Paper story: http://www.charlestoncitypaper.com/charleston/first-look-the-angel-oak-nude-shoot/Content?oid=3391208
Charleston police were professional and courteous. As were we. More officers arrived on the scene than I expected—at least 8—on up the chain of command to a 43-year veteran Lieutenant. He’d seen it all (except maybe this) and hid a wry smile beneath his game face. My guess is they didn’t quite know what to do with us. We weren’t technically trespassing. No other Angel Oak visitor complained. And large groups routinely make photos sans permit (albeit not sans clothing).
After 2 hours, we were all released without arrest or citation. And I must say I’m impressed with Charleston police response time on rural Johns Island, on the outskirts of town. Naked tree huggers beware.
Please share this story about the beloved landmark Angel Oak Tree and its forest. We traveled across the country, from California to South Carolina, to publicize the conflict here—between development and community green space—because it’s occurring all over America. I not against developement; I am FOR environmentally smart development and so-called “green” jobs, and by the truck-load. It’s how we’ll do meaningful work, feed our families, but while keeping our precious air, land, and soil healthy. I believe we’re gradually learning as a society, and as a culture, that our lives are enriched by trees, forest and wild places. For those who focus on dollars, open space has greater long-range economic value than developments that would replace them, if you factor in usually ignored long-range health costs.
We can earn our livelihoods while cherishing precious natural resources. Forests, wetlands, animal habitats, are not only environmentally critical to our survival, but can provide us the peace of mind and happiness we all seek.
PostScript: About Southern hospitality…
We, The TreeSpirit film crew and I, were delighted by the generosity of Johns Islanders and Charlestonians who opened their doors and homes and hearts to us. These new friends, and their friends, and the locals who braved public nudity for a worthy cause in a supposedly conservative town, frankly overwhelmed us with their encouragement and support. All to “hug” and preserve…a tree. Ah, but what a tree.
My sense is they may prefer anonymity, at least in this forum, so I’ll say only, “You know who you are, and thank you.” But watch the future film’s credits.
Again I am reminded we all have more in common than we often imagine. And beneath the surfaces of our everyday, work-a-day lives, in whatever region of the country, of all countries, we are far from alone in our love for the natural world.