While the rest of the world seems to be falling apart—economically and otherwise—I myself have been living in a world of wonder…a Pacific paradise, of sorts.
How did it all happen? Well, I’m not even sure, myself.
It started last spring. I came to Northern California seeking a soulmate, only to discover that my internet-romance left much to be desired. I tried to fit into the wacky world of my city-bred suitor, but it just didn’t work.
Remember my apartment balcony garden? And the Great Soil Heist? And the piles of beachcombing treasures I accumulated? What a mess that was!
I prepared to leave this wonderful paradise in NorCal…But then the good Lord intervened, and I met a country gentleman—a prince of a man whom I’d met once before when he was traveling in the Midwest.
Michael was overjoyed to see me again, and said he’d been thinking of flying back to the Midwest to find me. He couldn’t believe that I was here on the West Coast, living in his own locale.
We both discovered that we have much in common…Beachcombing and gardening and camping and berry-picking. Listening to crickets. Hearing a meadowlark sing. It’s so much better than hearing the racket from city-dwellers. (Michael calls them “Flatlanders”.) We often discuss their city-slickin’ ways as we explore the countryside…or while working together in Mike’s fall garden…
Our garden, I should say.
We’re proud of that lush garden—but sometimes Michael views the veggie jungle with wry concern. “I don’t dare send anybody in there after a tomato,” he says with a sigh. “Those plants are monsters. They’ll climb on you if you don’t watch out.”
Then he smiles at me and his eyebrow quirks in its special way. At that point, I have to hug him, of course—for he is the dearest man on earth. He is my soulmate and we get along famously…
Speaking of famous—my Michael has become rather well-known on the West Coast. He stumbled into stardom without meaning to, of course.
Michael lives in one of the most beautiful—yet most controversial—places in the world….at the entrance to the Avenue of the Giants. The ancient redwood groves have been spared from the ravages of logging companies. But high on the mountaintop, the clear-cutting of timber produced erosion and a nightmare scenario.
One rainy night, a tsunami of mud and stumps roared down the mountainside…a deadly avalanche descending on a sleeping town. Fortunately, Michael heard it coming, and ran to warn the community.
No one was killed, and Mike’s home was spared—but many other houses vanished in a moment, and the battle against the logging company began. Mike became the lead plaintiff, fighting the huge corporation in court.
It’s a dreadfully long story and it happened over a decade ago—but the publicity continues to this day.
The Environmental Community needed a hero and they found one in Michael O’neal. Flatlanders descended on Mike’s home from every corner of the world…
One particular day 7000 people, including the Governor and movie stars, marched in a procession to Michael’s doorstep. They all pitched in to help protect his home from future mudslides. Celebrities like Woody Harrelson and Bonnie Raitt shoveled dirt and tossed sandbags. Joan Baez and Winona Ryder chatted with Michael and invited him to dinner.
CBS was there. Fox News. National Public Radio.
The “debris torrent” of flatlanders soon equaled the devastation brought on by the avalanche. Reporters and authors and singers. Indian chiefs and Buddhist monks. National Geographic writers. EPIC and Earth Talk…
Michael’s life had become a jumble of noise, cameras, press releases, and screenings.
You’ve heard of Julia Butterfly Hill?…the gal who lived for two years in a huge Redwood, without once coming down…? Well, that whole episode took place on the mountain above Mike’s property, near the mudslide. Julia used Michael’s telephone as a transmitter, linking the Redwood Tree to the world.
It brought even more folks to Michael’s doorstep.
His story has been told in books, documentaries, on TV, and on dozens of radio programs. His words have been heard by tens of millions, and his life has been profiled in a book called Hope and Heroes, (London St. Press) along with more famous folks like Billy Graham, Art Linkletter, and Nelson Mandela.
To cap it all off, just the other day a production crew came out to film Michael for a new documentary. They wanted to film the house, and our garden jungle and—-
Oh, I know. I know. It’s unbelievable. I’m not sure I’d believe it myself, except I’m looking at stacks of news-clippings, and photos and books and—-
My, oh my! It’s all rather overwhelming to a country gal from the Barada Hills! Who would ever dream that my West Coast escapades would lead to an adventure such as this?
But enough of that! I’m done prattling, folks. I’ve got to run. I hear some rustling outside near the garden. It might be those monster tomatoes on the attack. Or maybe it’s the Country Girl’s pumpkin turning into a coach. I’d better go see.
Take care, my country neighbor. Keep on hoping and praying and dreaming. You never know what kind of challenge you’ll find around the next corner.
If you’re lacking adventure this winter, you might join me at my newspaper column:
‘Til next time…!