I once, when I was young but not obscenely so, went up to a tree in my lawn and tugged at one of its dangling, lazy branches with my soft, innocent, child hands, just as if I were shaking the hand of a stranger.

‘Hello, Tree.’

Just like that. It kept swaying only slightly in the warm evening wind that kept lapping up to us like a wave pushed back and forth by the tide. Of course it didn’t answer or nod its own greeting back; instead, after my words had sliced through the closing stillness, there the tree was, still swaying, still rustling its leaves in the evening wind like before. I had a revelation then—for how wonderful it was! I thought. How wonderful that I could rush out of my house and come to this tree, and shake its hand and speak truth or fiction to it, and at the end, it would remain still tall and proud, as before.

For there I realised my words were only sounds. Nothing else for the proud old tree, but the crisp crumbling of rocks, the harsh calls of crows. And if the tree could see my book shelves, I wondered, would it be able to tell apart the books that were picture books, and the ones that were not so?


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