I Read the Trees
(written on a Wolftree science expedition in 1997)
I read the trees for what they say
of days and eons while we’re away.
How the forest site has grown to be
the stand of tree people we all see.
They stand like sentries and gift me stories
of fire, flood, those landscape glories.
Majestic guides in forest stands
their comings and goings tell of the land.
They whisper legends in the night
and reveal volumes about the site.
If crowds of trees emerged from seed,
and struggled for the light they need.
Or open grown trees with lots of space
grew branches broad and won the race.
When limbs are thick growing down to the ground,
they have had few competing neighbors around.
But when limbs are gone from down below,
they’ve grown in crowds, limbs tell me so.
The struggling small trees start to die
when light is lacking, ‘though they try
to keep up growth with their fellow trees
whose growth is faster, and the light they seize.
I read the trees, they tell me of
the climate and the world above.
In wet spots where the alder grow
to high alpine that hemlocks know.
as grand fir humbles in low lands
the cottonwood tower in riparian stands.
The pine flats of tom brown’s places
To stands that stand on south & north faces.
Did you know the atmosphere sucks
and has control over the gaseous flux-
CO2 in and water vapor out
that affects trees growth when in a drought?
With this special feat, taking CO2,
trees do the miraculous thing they do-
Using the sun to make their food
and passing it on for our fortitude.
Trees catch the sun and suck up water
without their shade the streams grow hotter.
They hold the soil with netted roots
that keeps streams clear for fish and knutes.
Their leaves they add much to the soil
from their gifts they make dirt royal,
fertile ground for seeds to sprout, and
growing fields where greens burst out.
The trees you see they hold the birds,
and chipmunks, squirrels, elders’ words.
Their giving food and sheltered nests
makes rich homes for forest guests.
Eventually they die and fall
creating habitat for big and small
mammals, amphibeans, mushrooms, ants,
these down and dead serve new forest plants.
And as they decay, those fallen ones
create good fire fuel by the ton.
And slow the rivers, making pools
for chinook and coho, salmonid jewels.
And as they die from disease in pockets
their openings make other trees grow like rockets.
And so the cycle begins again
the book of trees I read never ends.
I read the trees, their secrets clear;
come read with me while you are here.
Their stories for you will soon unfold.
Their tales are yours, their wisdom old.