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The Tree

Against the reddening sky there looms a towering, jagged cliff face. Like a scar in the land, bloodied by the setting sun, it speaks the violence of upheaval. Great and small stones spill outwards from its base, suggesting that the violence is not yet finished. Erosion, gravity, rainfall, earthquakes – the forces that shape the earth’s surface are all still at work here. The bushes and grasses that, season to season, attempted footholds on its sides have been mostly stripped away by recent rock slides. But high on the edge of the summit, leaning obtusely, a single pine tree hangs on against all odds. Not long ago in the scale of things, it germinated, rooted and grew straight and tall high atop the hill. But the ground eroded and slipped away. The edge, once far from it moved closer, undermining it, and now its fate is unavoidable. Defiantly, it hangs with a gentle precariousness; an extended, plaintive swansong, waiting for its last season before tumbling to the valley floor below. Perhaps it will give way in a coming winter, under the weight of a snowfall; perhaps a torrential spring rain will erode the last crucial bit of soil from its roots; perhaps after the first frost of some future autumn the side of the cliff will fracture and down it will crash. But, today, it holds on in the setting sun; a finger pointing out towards the faint moon that rises opposite, in the darkening eastern sky.

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