Beautyberries and the Sinkhole
The deck at Sandhill rotted. The boards softened and splintered and then disintegrated. The posts and spindles lost their grip on each other. The finials fell apart.
The deck at Sandhill rotted, so it got torn down and a new one is being built.
But before the sawing and hammering could start, I had work to do – pruning back the hydrangea, digging up and separating the lily and iris bulbs, and doing something about the beautyberry bush that had spontaneously sprouted under the deck and proceeded to take over one entire corner.
The renegade bush had outdone itself this year. Each of the long heavy branches was at least three feet long and the berries were a brighter shade of magenta than I’d ever seen. In the early fall sun they glowed like a million tiny globes, perfectly round, perfectly smooth. The thought of chopping them off, tossing them into the branch, was not a pleasant one.
I have, however, done unpleasant things, encountered unpleasant choices, experienced unpleasant consequences many times over, so before I could get sentimental I grabbed the clippers and set to work. The thinner branches fell cleanly, the thicker ones required two hands on the clipper handles. The inside of the branches were still green, still alive.
It is one thing, I thought, to tear down a deck of rotted boards, but it is quite another to do this – to massacre a thing of beauty simply because of where it grew.
Because during the last few weeks I’d been inundated with robocalls and television ads and flyers filling my mailbox, all of which wanted to make sure I knew that America would be destroyed if the other side won in this year’s election, it didn’t take much for my thoughts to turn from the unfortunate beautyberry bush in my backyard to the unfortunate souls all over the world who don’t have to contend with robocalls and television ads and flyers. Where the absence of the aggravations equates to an absence of freedom. Where agency is a myth and representative government is a fairy tale. Where the luxury of complaint is nonexistent simply because of where those souls find themselves growing.
On Tuesday morning I drove down my dirt road, turned onto a county-maintained highway, crossed U.S. Highway 301, and followed the pavement to Union Baptist Church where those of us who live in the Sinkhole precinct vote. I donned my mask, accepted a plastic glove, showed my ID, and proceeded to mark my ballot. I took a sticker and, walking outside to stand between the church cemetery and an oak tree that is probably only a few years younger than the republic, took a rare selfie.
The deck at Sandhill rotted. The beautyberry bush was cut down. Living things, including democracies, are susceptible to rot, to destruction.
That said, the deck is being rebuilt. The beautyberry bush will probably grow back. And I believe that this country, whatever damage may be done to it by political party, candidate, or election results, will also recover. That, as I wrote on the inevitable Facebook post that accompanied that selfie, all things shall be well and all things shall be well and all manner of things shall be well.