In October, Huib Petersen stepped out of his home in Diamond Heights and found a rock with a face painted on it. Under the rock was a note that read, “Dear Neighvor, My name is Siena. I am 7 years old. I am in 2nd grade. I was wondering if you can help me with a school project. Could you make a crochet koala. How much will it cust? Thank you.”
It wasn’t the first time neighborhood children called on Petersen in this way. Prompted by the joyful array of crocheted creatures he leaves nestled in trees around the neighborhood, local kids have made a point to find out who Petersen is and where exactly he lives. Petersen has spent the last six years seeking out good tree branches, creating animals he thinks would fit in them, then hanging them up during the day when most of his neighbors are in work or at school. In the course of doing so, Petersen has slowly—single-handedly—turned a two-block stretch of Diamond Street into a toy zoo of sorts.
“I got a lot of reactions from people,” Petersen told KQED during an afternoon stroll to see the tree dwellers, “so I kept doing it. Because of the animals, I know most of my neighbors now. And my neighbors know each other. It is just so lovely seeing them outside, looking at the trees. ‘Oh, there’s a new one!’”
Petersen and his husband Jeffrey Tumlin moved to Diamond Heights seven years ago. Initially, his community contributions manifested as crocheted gifts he would hand out to local children. But after the shock and drama of the 2016 election, Petersen made a concerted effort to seek out more joy, and figure out better ways to spread it.