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Trees are cognizant of their existence. This is what my friend told me when we were children.

Breck 2015 (5)

She didn’t use those words, exactly. She said something like, “Trees are aware of what’s going on, you know.”

Breck 2015 (9)

“What do you mean?”

“They feel pain and happiness just like we do. They know if someone is going to cut them down. They can sense it. They get nervous.”

Breck 2015 (10)

“How do you know what trees feel?” Empirical evidence or not, I had always known that trees are sentient beings. But I wanted to know how she knew this.

“Scientists. They put a meter on a tree. They said, ‘We’re going to cut you down, tree.’ And the meter started spinning really fast because the tree was nervous. It knew what was about to happen to it.”

Breck 2015 (11)

Now I had proof that my beloved trees – with whom I had always shared a special kinship – knew what I knew about existence. I no longer felt silly about calming down our Christmas tree before my mother discarded it on garbage collection day. It really did know what was happening to it.

Breck 2015 (35)

“But,” my friend continued, “then the scientist said, ‘Don’t worry, tree. We’re not going to cut you down.’ And the needle stopped spinning on the meter. The tree had calmed down.”

“Wow. Like a heartbeat.”

“Yeah. Like a heartbeat. So, you see? Trees know what’s going on.”

Breck 2015 (20)

It still makes me sad, though, to know that trees know what I know. I think it might be better not to be aware that we exist, that we live, that we die. It might be better for all.

Or maybe it would be better to think like a tree. Trees silently accept. When my mind is quiet enough, I hear their message. So often, though, my humanity drowns out their voices.

It’s just so hard for me not to be a tree.

Breck 2015 (43)