Natural Highs: Tree Climbing in The Fort

In light of spring and the recent rainfall I decided to take a much needed trip to Fort Collins. My friend and I, a fellow writer, chose to venture down the Poudre River in search of fresh air to fill our lungs. Armed with Charlie Sipes’ Tree Climbing in Fort Collins, an insert found in Wolverine Farm Publishing‘s Matter Journal 11: The Woods, we had the idea to sit in some willows along the riverside and simply absorb our surroundings. There is so much natural life in this area, fueled by the slow flow of a captivating river. Willows grow differently than trees I have encountered thus far; they branch out in directions more parallel to the ground. Branches diverge into a network of branches, creating a jungle upon which to play. This excursion was a little longer than expected, crossing a bridge by foot and walking through dew-covered grasses to begin. Here is what I found.

At the bottom of the first willow, there is a shelter built by seemingly different groups of people, with sticks lain against and on top of two horizontal branches. Before climbing into the bowled center of the damp willow, I sit in this shelter and contemplate what it would be like to build a shelter in the wild. Bob Dylan’s shelter from the storm plays in my head as water from the preceding rainfall drips through the branches.

As I try to climb to a perch in the willow, I realize my shoes only slip against the wet bark, now a dark brown from the rain. I leave these shoes at the spot where the trunks diverge, and the cotton of my wet socks grips the trunk with ease. I like being able to take off my shoes and realize that life does not always call for the material things that humans produce. This is a great tree to hang out in, and I find it more playful than the past two trees. I perch myself on a horizontal limb above the fort, and begin to write.

The sounds of people come in and out of ear shot, along with dog collars, pedaling bikes, the bellow of laughter, and the rustle of trees singing in unison with the birds. One bird lands within ten feet of my perch, and squawks loudly at another bird perched in the tree. I wish I spoke bird, or could fly from tree to tree with ease. It is nice not to hear the sounds of cars, or look around and see buildings of the city. The air is so crisp and chilled up here, and I can smell the scent of wet bark, refreshed with the aroma of the damp leaves. This is a very woody area, and as I look around on the ground I can see the fallen branches, flaked bark, wet grasses, dirt trails, and decaying leaves. I am anonymous to passers-by, and I contemplate what their stories are. It makes me think of the stories of trees, and the history of the land I sit above. The feel is very natural, yet I can see where branches were cut and how the sap bleeds from these wounds. Trees have veins as I do, and I feel the life surrounding me. Trees have their own being.

The clouds hover above as I make my way down the limbs and back to the trail. I walk to where the river resides, and cross the bridge to another willow that reaches out over the river. The roots of the trees are exposed as they sink down into the water from the banks, and I can see the reflection of the trees and their leaves in the calm and foamy waters that drift slowly by me. The bark is too damp to climb very high in this tree, so I sit on a low branch that extends partially over the water. This river sustains so much life; squirrels playing in trees, robins pecking the ground, and fish jumping up to catch fallen insects. Water droplets trickle off of leaves and disturb the calmly flowing river, causing ripples. A white duck with a red bill causes a bigger ripple, and I ponder how the world is affected by every little incident in time. The river and the trees keep their own time, slower and more relaxed than the flow and growth of humans. Time sees that mosses grow from the cracks in the bark, which fade from light grey to brown as they go from dry to wet. The world expands as the moss does, without the roar of industry and the flow of traffic. Life is sustained naturally in this wooded area.

A whole ecosystem is beneath my feet, dangling from this tree branch. I am at peace with the world right now, and although this is naught but a thought in my over-thinking mind, I am a pioneer in a natural land. Are ecosystems separated by the human boundaries we create? I think not, as birds fly from one side of the trail to the other. Everything is intertwined in the world, and I am victim to the lands laid out before me. We cut down these trees, use them to build homes, and box ourselves up. If only humans could learn to simplify, to embrace the land around them, and live less divided from their roots. Lost in the branches and lulled by the river, I snap back to earth as my friend reminds me of the dinner awaiting us at his local abode.

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