The Sunset and I


CW: references to death and substance abuse


Every day is the same. She comes to me with offerings that I have no use for. I would complain, but the tears she cries give me sustenance. So, I take every offering and she thinks I like them, so she always comes back. Once, it was a small metal shape, attached to a longer metal chain. She almost didn’t give it to me, that offering. Metal is bad for me; it would have been better if she hadn’t. But she laid it down before me and cried and I greedily swallowed the poisonous metal, along with her nourishing tears.

Some of her offerings I don’t understand; bits of sharp, shiny, transparent materials that bite into the dirt; a tiny, knitted shoe that quickly became a haven for small critter families.

Time has begun to revolve around her visits. Most of the time her tears carve furrows into the ground, and she kneels in puddles of her own making. I dread the times she approaches with skin flushed red. On those days she is loud, her movements erratic, and I fear she will start ripping my bark as small humans sometimes do. She never has. Instead, she yells at me—but not about me—and collapses against my trunk. I don’t understand most of what she says to me, but I fill in the blanks.

Humans sometimes sit on the green land across from me. They hold paper up to their faces, engrossed in lives other than their own. Like those humans, the girl’s life has become my own.



She clutches bound papers, reading them aloud. I like to think that she speaks to me, I imagine the words in my mind, temporarily blind to the mundanity of life.

In her story, she looks down at delicate petals littering the freshly turned earth. They have sprinkled something beautiful to cover up the misery the land now holds. The misery that has wormed its way into the girl’s heart and buried itself within layers of cartilage and blood, ripping them to shreds as it settles there. Her gravestone reads: loving mother, beloved daughter, and sister. The full extent of her life, defined by the way others saw her.

The girl looks away from the blinding sun and towards where her father stands, beneath the shade of a tree. She can’t make out his face, but she knows he has no tears left to shed for his wife. He’d gone through their photo albums, tracing her features as if to imprint them in his memory. Then he’d torn them up, sprinkling the pieces into the fireplace. She had let him do it; everyone grieves in their own way. Inside her pocket, she curls her small fingers around a locket, protecting one photo she hadn’t given up.



I am getting bashed by the wind. It is more movement than I have felt in years. I was taught by the older gums how to sway in the wind so that instead of snapping, we are moulded by its force. Humans are running on the paths before me. They do not try to adapt to the wind like us, but try to control it and predict it. They cannot hear the voices of the wind laughing. I can see our leaves swimming through the air as some must let go. I will miss their weight at the end of my branches, allowing me to talk with the trees beside me. Perhaps it hurts to be torn from the place one has spent their whole life clinging to, but I can generate no sympathy. They will get to see beyond these wetlands.



The human is back again. I am eager to feast on her experiences, her emotions, her mind. What it must be like to be your own world.

Today, the girl speaks of a time she saw the reclined form of her father before her. His silhouette, flickering on the wall as the television switches between static and news, used to remind her of three boulders huddling together for warmth: strong, solid, immovable. She knows he is still strong, but his gaunt face is blue in the weak light, highlighting the bones that protrude from his body, as if straining to break through the papery skin stretching across them. He is asleep; his rhythmic breathing interrupted occasionally by nasal rumbles that make her heart clench. The doctor had handed her a tablet bottle labelled: ‘he will be fine’. The image of his fingers clutching loosely at the neck of a bottle frequents her dreams. She wonders what would happen if instead of retaining that link that so perilously dangles above the ground, he dropped it. She imagines the shards of glass smashing across the uneven floor in an explanation for the universe. She wonders if it would wake him up.

             In the daylight, she stares at her stormy skin in the mirror. She admires the pattern of blue and purple blending together like a work of art. Her fingers work from memory; the child safety cap easily popping open. She dangles her father’s bottle above the sink with her pointer and index fingers, watching the pills spill out and cling to the surface before disappearing. It’s how smokers hold cigarettes, she thinks.


Rella, the oldest red gum on our land, often tells us stories of a faraway war. She says that when humans fight, they lose their care for each other and the natural world. She describes the barren plains, the lack of colour in a world where trees have had their leaves blown off. She says that’s why human wars last so long; without our leaves they cannot tell what year it is, or how many seasons have passed. Their branches get damaged too, she says. The land becomes haunted by limbless trees; an army of ghostly soldiers that did not choose war. In the last war, there were many casualties, but when humans say ‘casualties’, they mean an accident, a number.

I asked her, how many of our species were casualties, she said she didn’t know; trees were not recorded in human accounts of the fallen.



The girl in her stories has grown up. She is a woman now, and the woman and her husband never fight. Not about what colour to paint the child’s room, not about which school district to live by, not even about how much they both work, nor how much the woman drinks. The woman and her husband are happy together, until the woman understands the blood soaking her lap. Until she tells her husband, crying, shaking, hugging. They’ll try again, she says. She must stop drinking, he says. The woman plants a new flower in their garden and locks the liquor cabinet. She knits a pair of shoes and hangs them above the door—she heard it brings good fortune. At night she stands over the bathroom sink, pointer and index fingers loosely clasping a tablet bottle, the musical surge as they clatter down the drain ringing in her ears. Her hand darts out and grabs the last one before it too is drowned. She places it on her tongue, watching her reflection as she swallows air.



Ever since the humans decided the climate had changed too much, we have been at the centre of their attention. I thought it would feel nice to be revered in this way, loved, even, as humans sometimes are. Yet the humans still haven’t spoken to us—they still leave their things littered around our roots. Some of these discarded remnants try to become the earth, but imitating dirt does not make one dirt.

Rella says humans continue to leave pieces of their lives for us because they do not actually care for us, they are doing what they think they need to do to survive. I think they just don’t understand what the earth needs. They try to plant more of our species. But they plant them in the wrong spots, without the right earth or sunlight, in a patch of weeds who, like humans, feast on the nutrients of those around them. I am forced to watch as saplings sicken before they grow tall enough to feel the sun’s warmth. They are not even old enough to bleed out, no sap leaks from them into the soil, nothing to remember their presence. And the humans with their rationalising brains plant weeds that survive. We are doing good, they say. We are healing the planet.

I love when the sun sets, and the humans go to sleep. Every night it is different, the inky hues of purple and pink and orange and gold blending in the glorious finale of the day. Each one is made only for me, only for this place, only for home. Every star is a whole other world, one where trees are not captured where their roots are planted. I think if humans looked up more often, they would feel their time slipping away—or maybe they are aware, and that is why their cities light up the night brighter than the stars ever could, as if they believe that as long as they do not sleep, progress will beat time.



I am learning a lot about humans from the girl, but her words are confusing me today. Too many metaphors.

There is a sharp pain and the sound registers. The woman slowly puts a hand to her cheek, looks up at her husband in confusion. In the mirror behind him she can see herself, one cheek flushed red from alcohol, the other stormy like a physical déjà vu. She feels as if she is made of a cloud, and wisps of herself are being caught in the breeze and whisked away. In a moment of clarity, she remembers a time, standing before another man, this one comatose with a bottle in his hand. She had watched as his breathing slowed to a stop.



I am dying. I couldn’t tell for a long time. A new sapling is already sprouting, feasting on my decaying flesh. The trees around me are mourning; it is a detriment to the entire ecosystem when an old tree dies. Oh, what a laugh Rella will have at me and my obsession with humans. I was warned too much salt can kill us, but I was too busy watching out for metal. Now the tears that once nourished me have poisoned the earth. Now, my roots are stuck in this salt-ridden soil. I think the girl’s roots are as well. In that way, human roots are stronger than a tree’s.

Am I wrong to worry for her when I am gone? I have to believe she will come and find me. She will stand before my patchwork bark, my spotted leaves and gauges. She will search for another tree and find none suitable. She will sit down one last time beneath my branches, I will enclose her in them as she pulls out her papers and begins to read her story one last time. One last time she will cry her tears that nourished me for so long. There is no way she could have known. She will cry that something has hurt me and finally, finally leave the papers at my roots, where I can explore for eternity. For what would I be without her?

Yet all I can think about is my sunset. The sunset I can only see from my roots.

Farrago's magazine cover - Edition One 2024


It’s 2012 and you have just opened Tumblr. A photo pops up of MGMT in skinny jeans, teashade sunglasses and mismatching blazers that are reminiscent of carpets and ‘60s curtains. Alexa Chung and Alex Turner have just broken up. His love letter has been leaked and Tumblr is raving about it—”my mouth hasn’t shut up about you since you kissed it.” Poetry at its peak: romance is alive.

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