Black Branches

text and haiku by Kristen Lindquist

I ran into someone yesterday who said that they don’t mind how cold it gets here as long as the sun is shining: 35 degrees with icy drizzle is unbearably miserable compared to 25 degrees and sunny. Today, with the sun shining, I left my hat in the car so I could feel the sun on my hair as I walked around town. It was a pleasure just to roam the sidewalks, running into people I know and helping the local economy as I bought some Valentine’s Day gifts for my husband and family.

Now the sun has set and the sky is the palest blue sheet behind the messy scrawling of black branches. Some of the branches form the patterns of runes, an ancient alphabet of straight lines that could be easily carved as into wood with a knife or chiseled into rock. It is thought that they were originally used for charms and spells; the Norse god Odin recounts in the poetic Edda how he learned the magic runes by hanging nine days on a tree. New Agers cast stones carved with them as a form of divination.


Many of the simple shapes of runes can be easily picked out in the natural lines around us. For instance, the slender maple tree, stark against the sky, looks like the Fehu rune: the trunk a straight line with two branches lifting to the right at a 45-degree angle. This rune meant “cattle” and symbolically represented wealth and abundance–appropriate for my afternoon of shopping, as well as for all that I have in my life for which I am so grateful.

Branches etch dark runes
against sky–cryptic poems,
arboreal spells.