Posts Tagged ‘trees’

Staying in the Canyon

I imagine the trees saying
it is not such a bad thing
to show up day after day
in the same place with the same
walls and the same light
and the same soil.
All that moving around
is one way to live.
Staying rooted is another.
I notice I want to argue.
I notice I want to relent.
I notice they have no sense
of lack. Their days are full.
Their heartwood strong.
I imagine them saying,
so much can travel inside you
when you never move at all.

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Every day, more gold.
Every day, a sacred spilling
across the mountains, the valleys.

I have felt, before, like an aspen still green
when the surrounding trees
have transformed into radiance.

Oh, this learning to trust our own timing.
In the meantime, every day more gold.
Every day, a sacred spilling.

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Tannins of Love

He loved the bitter tastes—
thrilled at what happened to the mouth
without sugar. So tonight,
staring at the fresh cranberries,
I feel the now familiar twist
of deep love laced with sour.
How many pots of cranberry sauce
did we make out of season,
boiling down the hard red fruits
with as little sugar as we could manage?

I remember the way he poured cranberries
into the pot, not with grace,
but with enthusiasm. The way he waited
for the berries to meld before adding
sugar, clove and orange peel.
The way he thrilled in the sharp red tang—
his pucker trailed by a grin.
The cranberries spark in me a brighter
love for that boy. Even as I wince.

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On Earth Day

Of course, the trees with their greening,
their growing, their gift of eating light—
how beautiful they are in these first days of spring:
their feathery drupes that gather low sun,
the tender gold when the leaves first unfurl.

But today I am awed by the vital soil that feeds them—
awed by the multipedes and woodlice, fly larvae and springtails
that fragment the once-living world into mulch;  
awed by the nematodes, the mites, the pauropods,
awed by the rotifers, the algae, the bacteria,

the single-celled protozoans—all of these makers of earth.
There’s elegance in the process—the breaking down,
the separation of proteins, the release of nitrogen,
the creation of rich, dark humus.
How seldom I honor the beauty of tearing apart,

the blessing of brokenness, the importance of those
who undo, who help the world go to pieces.
The earth itself is an altar to breakdown, decay,
collapse, demise. And from these infinite violences,
we rise, like trees, we rise.

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Inspired by dark and naked aspen,
she’s been practicing emptiness—
perhaps you, too, have seen the way
that barren arms can better hold
the changing colors of the sky.
The less she holds, the more love
seems to fill her, pours into her
like the winter sunset, vast and brilliant.
All these years she thought the point
was to be full. Now she marvels
at how resonant she is without
so much clutter—how resounding,
the honest beating of her heart.

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I try to see myself

the way I see the trees

far off beyond the field—

something not at all singular

but a tiny part of a whole

that extends beyond sight,

beyond knowing.


It is a long time

before my thoughts

are airy as the silences

between their dark trunks,

quiet as the leaves

that are not yet there.






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Autumn Beside the River




The rocks that were underwater

two months ago are dry now,

and a woman can sit on them

beneath the bridge and escape

the September sun. But she can’t

escape herself. There was a time

she really believed she could control things.

Now she sits with her own brokenness

and invites the inevitable autumn into her,

the autumn that’s already come.

Invites the lengthening nights. Invites

the dank scent of the garden, moldering and dead.

Invites the loss of green. You can’t be

a sapling forever, she tells herself,

though another part of her argues,

Yes you can, yes you can.


The river has never been so clear—

every rock in the bed is visible now,

and perhaps clarity is one of autumn’s best gifts.

She imagines the leaves of her falling off—

how she loves them.

She imagines them golden in the wind.



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for Jack Ridl and all the rakers



Pulling the rake through the cottonwood leaves,

I think of Jack in Michigan pulling his rake

through beech, birch, oak and ash leaves.

I stop to lean on my rake and I think

of him stopping to lean on his rake

and talk to the gods. I’m not so sure I believe

in gods, but I believe in Jack. I believe in kindness.

I believe in friendship that grows despite distance.

I believe that these rhythms of raking and making piles

bring us closer together—all of us rakers, all of us

who step into the slow cadence of pull and reach,

and pull and reach. There is something unifying

in this annual act of tidying the world. Every day

the news is full of all we can’t set right. But we

can drag the rake through the yard so that we

can see the path again. And we can set the rake

aside and stare at the sky and think of all

the people we love and all the people

we’ll never know who join us in this simple act,

reach and pull, reach and pull, reach and pull,

the sound of metal tines grating, the beat

of our own hearts scraping against our chests.

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Out the kitchen window, my daughter

scales the cottonwood tree, winds

her way up the inner branches.


Feeling my eyes, she turns to smile at me,

her gaze entered by light.

The tree is bare, the buds in gray hoods,


though soon there will be a riot of quivering green.

So much in us still waits to arrive,

though in moments such as this,


there are no other moments, only this one

fluttering wild in our breast, not even trying

to balance the emptiness, with our hearts so full.



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Catkins in March



But the Hebrew word, the word timshel—”Thou mayest”— that gives a choice. It might be the most important word in the world. That says the way is open.

            —John Steinbeck, East of Eden



Today it was the aspen buds

that ruined my heart.


One glimpse of them

through the window, and


for that moment,

the inner winter I’d constructed


out of should and shalt

fell down like bricks. Perhaps I could have


returned to work, but instead

stared at the soft gray


tufts of spring. How they defy

the stubborn chill. And almost


against my will, in me I felt

an opening I didn’t quite want,


and perhaps I didn’t want to hear

a small voice saying, you


have a choice, you

have a choice.



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