“Talking trees are for fairy tales; they're not part of the Hyborian mythos.”

— BWS to
Dino De Laurentiis,
Executive Producer
Conan the Destroyer


Outside my apartment building on 26th Street, while plucking a small stone from my right shoe, I laid my hand on a tree in order to keep my balance. As I touched its smooth sepia trunk, the tree flooded my senses with despair. It had been ill all of its life and it knew that it had no hope of ever flourishing as it wished it could do.

Entirely unprepared for this, I didn’t give a thought to the fact that trees don’t talk (or have brains, for that matter). But at that moment I was convinced the tree was directly communicating with me. Imagine me standing there on the bustling city street, affecting the body language and compassionate expression of a young medic. My right hand remained raised, thoughtfully fingering the bark of the tormented tree, as I stared into the trunk, thinking “You must feel so awful.” Then, as if it had replied affirmatively, I muttered, “How terrible.” Upon lowering my hand, the psychic connection abruptly ceased and I remembered where I was — and realized what I was doing. I blushed so hard that sweat broke out all over me. I turned about briskly and retreated back into the shadows of my apartment building.

Later on, I realized that I had imposed an anthropomorphic interpretation upon what I was sensing, and only imagined that the tree was speaking. The “message” from the tree was subliminal energy that I transposed into data. Nevertheless, the fact that I had tapped into its essence with my touch is in itself no small thing.

Panel from THE BOY WHO LOVED TREES 1970 Pen & Ink

Of the likely hundreds of psychic events from that period, I remember fewer than twenty. Even then, some of those memories are, I think, composites, two or three incidents melded into one by lazily indifferent memory banks. The earliest events, and the last few from later in the year, are the least corrupted for some unknown reason. This story is from mid-June: