Books are like the ancient, twisted peach tree in the field behind my house.
In the spring, hard green buds open into soft pink flowers, scenting the air with an intoxicating perfume that lasts a day or two before the fierce west wind blasts the honeyed scent - and all the petals - into a forlorn memory.
In the early summer, fuzzy green nubbins hide amongst curled dull leaves, peeping out shyly, avoiding birds and over-eager children.
Ah, but in late summer, golden rose fruit plucked under the hot grinning sun melt in my mouth like liquid amber, pure nectar, peach-flavored, unlike the tasteless perfect lumps found in the stores.
By autumn the fruit is gone, eaten by birds or children - or me. Some lays rotting on the ground, to the delight of butterflies, who treat each stinking corpse like a late-blooming rose.
In winter even the leaves are gone, blown away by the harsh Texas wind. Twisted branches creak and moan, dead as the stones at the tree's roots.
But the stones are peach pits, not rocks. Some will sprout. The branches are not dead, only sleeping, and if I touch my nose to the twigs I can see tiny buds, ready for the first warmth of spring.
A book is like a peach tree, offering differing delights each time it is read. Fresh and exciting the first time through, it will offer something new with a second read. It can be comforting and familiar on the third. Old and trite after too many readings done too soon, it may be put away in the cold, in contempt.
Ah, but after a time, when you open that book again, sometimes late summer sunshine pours from the pages, familiar and sweet and surprisingly wise.