Shade of the Trees

by Brad Nelson   7/6/14

Perhaps this should be posted in the “Poetry and Prose” section. But I’ve never been a stickler about something being “off topic” as most sites are. Who acts like that in real life?

“I’m sorry, honey, I can’t talk about what we’re having for dinner because we’re in the living room, not the kitchen.”

I’m all for organizing things, but one can easily get too anal retentive about such things.

I did about twenty miles on my bicycle today in and around Port Gamble. I was deep in the forests, on wide logging roads and narrow (and stump-infested) bike trails. I huffed and puffed for about four hours or so.

But it wasn’t exercise. I hate exercise. I think the only legitimate forms of exercise are training for the Olympics, rehabbing an injury, or getting in shape for the military or law enforcement. Other than that, I see no use for it. I do not get on my bike for “exercise,” per se. It’s simply a side-benefit.

Bicycling is a way to pass some pleasant hours alone in nature doing something kinetic and that makes you feel as if you are alive. And when you brush your shin against nettles, baby, you know you’re alive.

I found the first ripe red huckleberries. The first patch I found was adequate. But I later found another patch that was just stuffed with big and ripe berries. I also ran into (ran over in some cases) the first sighting of ripe wild blackberries. They tend to hug low to the ground. I don’t know their Latin name, but they are the small ones, not the larger ones that are predominant. The small ones are what the finer cooks use to make blackberry pies. But because they are so small and hard to find, it’s a challenge to pick enough of them for a pie.

The weather was ideal in the Pacific Northwest today. It was warm but not too warm — about 86 degrees at its peak. It was sunny most of the day with an occasional cloud to take the edge off. When outdoors I much prefer the heat to the cold. Ninety degrees is just fine as far as I’m concerned. And even those temperatures around these parts are quite tolerable because such temperatures usually come with low humidity and a fair breeze, as there was today.

I used to do a lot of thinking and musing when out on the trail. Several years ago it was even common for me to carry a pen and a pad of paper in my back pocket. But I’ve found that I’ve graduated from that practice for some reason. It may have been because the pen and paper (and the thoughts inside my head) became analogous to the proverbial Japanese tourist who takes photos of everything in his travels and spends little time actually in his travels, if you know what I mean.

But I did sit at the end of the day and write a very small poem. It’s a poor poem. It doesn’t express the true grandeur of a forest, particularly in its inherent architecture and ability to shape the landscape and add wondrous dimensions. Flat wheat fields and sandy beaches are fine places. But a forest is a magical and majestic place. The fact of trees changes everything. So here’s that short bit without further ado:

Shade of a tree
Being at ease
Beneath a dappled cover

Sun in the sky
Higher than high
Relief in timber shadows

At the end of the ride today I stopped by a fruit stand that I frequent. I’ve gotten to know the vendor over the years. He thought it might be a little hot for bike riding on a day like this. And I said that, yes, if I had been out in the open sun on an asphalt road, it might have been sweltering. But I was riding in the shade of the trees.

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Brad Nelson

About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.
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9 Responses to Shade of the Trees

  1. Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

    P.S.: Regarding Health & Fitness, my bike’s multifunction speedometer thingie said I burnt about 1000 calories today. So that’s something.

    And lest you think this area, or myself, has gone tree-hugger mad, I got a chuckle out of the fact that in Port Gamble today there was a quite large chainsaw art festival. I spent some time walking around the exhibits. One featured a very large Batman (cape and all) carved skillfully out of a large stump.

    Yes, “chainsaw art” might be somewhat of an oxymoron. But just imagine the horror of a Seattle liberal seeing actual once-live trees being gouged-for-pleasure by monstrous and noisy gas-guzzling chainsaws.

    So I will bow to this “art” and call it such. If carving a Sasquatch out of a stump is art, let it be so…especially if it freaks out the Seattle liberals.

  2. Glenn Fairman says:

    I think that I shall never see…….

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      For those who may not get the reference, there is this lovely poem by Joyce Kilmer:


      I THINK that I shall never see
      A poem lovely as a tree.

      A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
      Against the sweet earth’s flowing breast;

      A tree that looks at God all day,
      And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

      A tree that may in summer wear
      A nest of robins in her hair;

      Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
      Who intimately lives with rain.

      Poems are made by fools like me,
      But only God can make a tree.

      • Timothy Lane says:

        My maternal grandmother (who was an English teacher for quite a while, as many people recalled at her funeral) was very fond of “Trees”.

  3. Rosalys says:

    I love trees, too, and we have gone out of our way in our travels to view magnificent specimens.

    If any of you find yourself in Charleston, SC you MUST make a pilgrimage to the Angel Oak! That tree is so immense that you’ll feel like a Lilliputian standing next to it. It is AWESOME! The guy who took us there, after getting to know us a bit better, called me a tree hugger! I protested, but he would not change his mind (he considered this a compliment, by the way!) So I relented – I guess I am one – sort of – but I am not opposed to using trees as a resource or removing them if they are in the way. I would, however, fly into a furious rage if anyone deliberately cut down the Angel Oak!

    The Confessions of a Conservative Tree Hugger! That’s a good title for a book.

    We joined a fitness club a few years back. The treadmill isn’t physical torture so much as it is mental torture! I went faithfully for about two weeks. Then our attendance dropped off dramatically. When we realized we hadn’t gone for a year and a half we finally let our membership lapse. You are sort of right when you say that biking in the woods isn’t exercise, but it might be more accurate to say it isn’t work. The treadmill is a drudge. A walk in the woods, or on the beach, or even in the neighborhood (depending on where you live) is a mini vacation. Don’t go out and walk (or bike) because “I gotta get in shape!” Do it to clear your mind of its cobwebs. One of the truly natural ways to cure depression is to go out and take a walk! The exercise and fitness are an added benefit.

    It’s snowing today and so I will be shoveling. I’m not always enthusiastic getting started, but when I’m out there I enjoy myself. I like the snow. I like shoveling. And when I finish and come back inside, invariably I am wearing a big grin on my face!

    • Timothy Lane says:

      When we went touring the Pebble Beach area back in 1959-60 (my father was studying Greek at the Army language school in the Monterey Presidio in preparation for his tour as Assistant Army Attache in Greece), my parents would often take us by 2 twisted cypresses known as the Ghost Tree and the Witch Tree.

  4. Steve Lancaster says:

    The last words of Thomas (Stonewall) Jackson, “let us cross over the river and rest in the shade of the trees”

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