Vertical Wanderings

Running log: May 28/4 miles

The small wood that I’ve been tracking all spring, near the stone steps and adjacent to the sandy beach, is now completely filled in with leaves. All I see is green, which I mostly appreciate because green is my favorite color, but also lament because of the loss of my view straight through the wood. Which looks more mysterious and inviting: a wall of green with no way to know what’s behind it or a group of bare trees where everything is almost visible–the browns and purples of the dead leaves on the gorge floor, the blues and grays of the mississippi river, the light brown of the sandy beach–but not quite?

“Vertical” Linda Paston, found while searching online for “poetry and trees.”

“Perhaps the purpose
of leaves is to conceal
the verticality
of trees”

Perhaps the purpose
of leaves is to conceal
the horizontality
of trees,
their branches that stretch wide and far. Wandering. Interrupting
hierarchies of sky and ground. Disrupting
my view.

Running log: March 20/3 miles

It’s the first day of spring, but it looks like late fall. I love running this time of year when the trees are bare. No leaves. And you can see to the other side.

Perhaps the purpose
of leaves is to conceal,
creating mystery
and wonder
and fear:
what’s in those woods?

Running log: January 25/Cross Training

I scan them reverently and anxiously, wondering what might be sharing the woods with us. Last fall, I saw a fox, just 20 feet away.

Perhaps the purpose
of leaves is to
and annoy:
why can’t I see
to the river

Running log: May 2/5 miles

The trees at my favorite part of the mississippi river road running path are covered in leaves, making it hard to see the floor of the gorge.

Perhaps the purpose
of leaves is
not about meaning
but usefulness:

Leaves must be good for something, there’s so many of them
I don’t mean why do they exist, I mean
Once they’re here, what can we use them for, if we can’t
Eat them or smoke them
 (Bernadette Mayer, Work & Days)?

Perhaps the purpose

of leaves

never matters as much
to the trees,
as it does to us:

You are…walking among great trees, and you think: they are just there. They are there, they didn’t expect me, they were always there. They were there long before me and they will still be there long after me (Frédéric Gros, A Philosophy of Walking).

Perhaps the purpose
of life
is to
pay attention
to the trees
and their leaves:

What if to taste and see, to notice things,
to stand each is up against emptiness
for a moment or an eternity—
images collected in consciousness
like a tree alone on the horizon—
is the main reason we’re on the planet?
(Marilyn Nelson, “Crows”)


Perhaps the purpose,
in running,
especially up a hill,
is to be like a tree,
with your trunk vertical,
thinking tall
and looking high
to the horizon.

Running log: May 9/5 miles

as you turn back up the hill
you’ll see a bridge at the top
look at it, look at it
never stop, never stop

Perhaps the
tree wants
to be more
like me:
not restless?

I have taken to marveling
at the trees in our park.
One thing I can tell you:
they are beautiful
and they know it.
They are also tired,
hundreds of years
stuck in one spot—
beautiful paralytics.
When I am under them,
they feel my gaze,
watch me wave my foolish
hand, and envy the joy
of being a moving target
(Dorothea Tanning, “Woman Waving to Trees”).

we—me and a tree—
are more
alike than
I’ve considered.

Trees and human beings are cousins, yes? We all breathe, we grow, we savor water, we have internal vascular systems, we sing in the wind, we lean towards light (John Roscoe, “Treeing”).