For those who move quickly,
winter brings a harsher cartography
to the land. Geography gives way to geometry,
all lines and boundaries and starkness. Simplification
in place of context, inky brushstrokes on parchment.
An outline of a place, an idea of a place.
Plato’s shadows sharp on a marble wall.
Here is a tree, the quick-moving eye declaims,
the fractal form of it on a field of white. Here,
a power line, an arc described by gravity.
As for the other trees, they are all trees.
As for the other wires, they are all wires.
But for slower visitors, place still tells
the world in its fine-grained glory, a story
of leaf scar and lenticel, of freeze and melt
and the inimitable scent of snow.
Did curiosity bring you here, slow one?
Did desire, or pain? But I am glad,
so glad to see you stopping here. Sing me a song
of seed pods, and I will trace for you
every tangled filament of what I know.
It’s funny, I was proud of how much more I noticed on my walks than folks who whizzed by on cars or even bicycles. But then I realized how much I was missing while walking than sitting still. These thoughts brought to you by every bench and stump that’s perfect for sitting, the poetry and prose of Wendell Berry (a huge influence on me), and the book Seeing Trees, by Nancy Ross Hugo. If you’re looking for help with truly looking at the trees in your life, I can’t recommend it enough.
An aside: I know that’s the husk of a hazelnut and not a seed pod. But I don’t have any seed pod photos and “A Song of Nut Husks” is just never going to fly.