If you thought trees are pieces of living, dumb wood covered in chlorophyll, think again, and consider this: you haven’t met the right one yet…
I walked down Drinkwater — a very strange name for a street, I know — when I came across a Palo Verde tree, a Phoenix favorite. I immediately knew I was in good company. I stopped and gazed at it, wondering how old it was, admiring it, praying it would speak to me, as others of its kind had done in the past. I wasn’t expecting it to, because Palo Verdes are peculiar creatures, choosing their interactions carefully, but to my great surprise, it responded.
It spoke to me in a manner typical of its kind, fearsome and arcane. Life, it screamed — Palo Verdes love to scream, it’s how they communicate — life, it screamed, is a cold shot of tequila. You flinch before having one, and cringe while doing so, but when the shot glass is empty and the lime wedge has been sucked clean and your skin has stopped crawling and your eyes have stopped watering, you want more.
I nodded, an impulse to fuck myself up rising from the back of my head, where the crocodiles live, spreading down to my chest and torso, and from there across my entire body. Tequila, gin, tobacco, crank, anything would do. I had the need to consume and burn out.
The Palo Verde must have read my mind — I didn’t know they could do that — and leaned in toward me and screamed, Life is not indestructible. You may feel compelled to imbibe without reserve, but watch out. Things can evaporate in a flash, leaving you with a hangover that lingers on for a lifetime. Take care of yourself, mind your motions, your emotions and cravings, choosing your poison and servicing your drip, and watch your fucking step. Protect yourself, because no one will do it for you. Unless you fight for what you live for, life will not unfold in the way you want it to. You will end up sliding down some arcane pipeline, going Goodness knows where.
That’s what the Palo Verde screamed at me.
I flinched, but my consciousness didn’t.
See, I had spoken to Palo Verdes a few times before about many a disturbing subject matter, from the everyday serious and important topics to the gut-wrenching pulp, and knew how to take the feedback. I didn’t care much for the screaming part, but I had gotten used to it by now, not letting it distract me.
So life went on, and so did I, unabashed and unabated, certain there was Goodness at the end of the night, watching over me, watching over my life choices, which I had taken for granted and naturalized in my framework, accepting them undisputedly, like the concrete slabs beneath my feet. Goodness knew why some things happened, and how they happened, and when they happened, and where, and to whom, and all I cared about when faced with it was the comforting knowledge that things would go on, no matter what. That there she was, watching over me, Goodness, and so was I, watching over her, as much as I could, doing her bidding,
making sure the perennial principles she represented would survive the long drought.
Such is the world, savage and unrelenting. Brutal as hell. Life is borne out of death and destruction. Regeneration hurts like hell. Birth is a painful, traumatic experience that tears things apart to create new ones, and the life that ensues from it is a post-traumatic stress disorder, something with which we learn to live every minute of the day, all year round.
Do we stop living because it hurts? Do we stop existing? On the contrary, we trudge through, diving in headfirst when the way ahead coagulates. We pierce the sludge and propel our way through it, coming out the other side dirty and aching, shellshocked and screaming, ready to face whatever awaits us.
Perhaps the Palo Verdes of the world are trudging and aching and persevering through their own sludge when talking to humans. Crossing over to our realm can’t be an easy task, by any standard.
No wonder they’re screaming all the time.
I looked up at the Palo Verde one last time, embracing the Goodness residing inside it, grateful for having been there at that specific moment in time to see what I saw: life in its full, yet, understated glory, present in the shape of an ancient life form, looking back at me, granting me an audience, offering me an interlude, giving me the chance to make good use of it.
I grabbed it with both hands and cherished the opportunity. It could have ended at any moment and Goodness knew when it would return. It could be gone forever, chased away by the packs of persecution that hound the world with their fiery jaws.
At that moment the ground shook and shifted. The Palo Verde leaned in, taking up my entire vision, screaming things I had never heard before. My eyes watered up. They began hurting, a sharp, piercing pain running through them. For a moment I thought they were going to shoot out of my head like cannonballs and that my head was going to explode like a watermelon but I focused on my breath, calming myself down. The pressure subsided as quickly as it had ensued and my eyes cleared up.
What I saw and heard after that was beyond description. The Palo Verde swept the air clean and a swell of time carried me away. The kernel of life, beaming bright and golden, unfurled and unfolded itself before me in all its mind-bending, crushing beauty.
My consciousness? It embraced the moment, allowing me to take it all in, enabling me to tear out of my body and follow the revelation. It helped me tumble and churn alongside it, absorbing
the full effect of what was being revealed to me.
I never came back. My carcass fell to the ground, where it laid motionless and cold until the next morning, when a driver spotted it.
But my essence, my essence lives on. It leaped out of my flesh with a flurry, shooting into the unseen, into the majesty of the unbound, where it carries on being, and will forever carry on being in the form of a dream, a dream conjured up by a humble Palo Verde tree on the side of a street called Drinkwater, in the town of Phoenix, where the dreamers go to die and the shadows come to life.