A Tree Tour

A Tour of Some Trees that I See While Running

i. The Welcoming Oaks

At the start of my run
traveling above the river
between the 36th and 35th street parking lots
several oaks line the path,
their golden leaves shimmering,
their branches stretching,
more horizontal than vertical.
Welcome, they seem to say
in hushed, solemn rustlings,
signaling the start of a ceremony or sacred ritual.
Discarded acorns and dead leaves
cover the path below them,
crunching under my moving feet:
a noisy processional.

ii. The Floodplain Forest

In the summer
the floodplain forest
at the bottom of the gorge
and near the part of the path that dips
below the road
is covered in green—
almost, but not quite,
concealing my view of
the blue river as I run above it.

When it rains
that same floodplain forest
glows in soft greens
and rich browns

In the spring,
the cottonwood trees
release their seeds into the air
and it snows:
the floodplain forest floor is white,
Covered in cotton.

iii. More, Unnamed Oaks

Even though I adore Trees, I don’t really like oak trees—
at least most of the oaks above the Mississippi River
that I encounter midway through my run.
They’re scraggly and not clustered in pleasing patterns.
Just a lone oak here, a lone oak there.
They drop too many acorns that my dog tries to eat
or my shoe wants to slide over.
And their leaves? Misshapen clumps.
They don’t resemble the ideal Form of a tree:
full, verdant, stretching vertically.
And, worst of all,
for over half the year,
when I’m running on the bluff
and trying to see across the river to St. Paul
they block my view.

I guess I like them well enough in late fall
and through the winter
when their leaves are gone
and their gnarled limbs are exposed.
Then I can see through them
to the other side.
Then I can marvel at their twisted forms,
not for their beauty but
for their wisdom and endurance.

iv. The Mighty Cottonwood

Only occasionally I get bored
of running right above the gorge
and I turn off the path
run across the river road
and onto the sidewalk
right by the biggest
and probably oldest
cottonwood tree I know.
When I’m running,
I can only see its trunk.
The rest of it is too far up in the sky.
Later, when I’m walking,
I return to it and
crane my neck
and twist my back to take in its leaves
and wonder how long its been standing there and
what it notices, so close to the clouds.