The usual end to if a tree fell … in a forest and no one could hear it, did it make a sound? Yesterday a tree fell on a dear friend and killed him. The sound of silence is deafening. (More)

My friend was 59 years old. He had spent time as a logger, a construction business owner and a whole host of jobs. He and the man he was working with were clearing trees in a campground. I have known both for almost five years. Both very experienced woodsmen and wilderness certified EMTs, they were safety conscious and very aware of the dangers. I have watched them, from a safe distance, fell trees. They would call out their first and second safety exits in case the tree fell other than how they planned. If it was too windy, they didn’t cut.

For some reason, my friend took his second safe exit and stumbled. The tree fell on him. His partner took a chain saw and cut up the tree to get it off him and performed CPR for half an hour.

On Thursday the world lost an original and eccentric man. My friend taught me so much about listening to the woods. This isn’t a eulogy. My friend was a true progressive with a strain of libertarianism thrown in on occasion. This is a story about not judging people based on how they look or dress. My friend was a north woods fishing guide and a sled dog guide. He had long curly gray/blond hair and a beard. In this part of Minnesota, he looked normal. Put him in the cities and he looked like a refugee from pioneer times.

He was self-educated, widely read and intelligent. He was knowledgeable on an amazing variety of subjects. Sometimes his knowledge shocked me to the point I would Google after he left to seek confirmation. He was invariably right and so much more entertaining than Wikipedia. I told him that I was pretty gullible and was counting on him to not lie to me. He said, “But I have lied to you. Don’t you remember when I told you I was 24?”

The point of this is to remind us that intelligence is not always measured in degrees and that wisdom comes in many guises. It is not always “new and improved.” Sometimes wisdom graces us in the form of a man who has earned the term old soul. As progressives, we need every ally we can get. Let us not judge before we have listened. Wisdom comes in surprising people. Keep your minds and your hearts open as we fight for progress.