The Grief Hedge, the Beautyway

My beloved Catalpa

{You can listen to me read this piece by clicking the play arrow}

I want to hate them. The big machines. They are not people, they are not alive, and so it would be easy to hate them. I think of all the devastation they cause, the beauty they destroy, that they were designed to destroy, that they are destroying right now, with bangs and rumbling engines, in the front of my studio, trees, gathered like matchsticks, an ash and a poplar and soon my beloved Catalpa, trout lilies growing for decades, holding up their dainty yellow stars, now crushed entirely, corms and stems and blooms, obliterated by the iron tread of the machines, that rumble now, like iron thunder, like a storm of destruction. It would be easy to hate them.

I tried it, for a moment, the hate, and found that I did not want it living in my body, for it was like a seed of destruction itself, this tiny hate, and besides, it inevitably seeps towards the men operating the machines, towards the men who have designed them, towards men, towards the bridge they are building, towards all bridges, and all roads, and I do not want the hate.

In this world of plunder and injustice, my grief, and my short-lived experiment with hate, they are tiny things. I am, by luck and privilege, writing this from my studio, as in, let’s notice this, I have a space for my creativity. A whole house, in fact, if we don’t count the room I gave to my daughter for her studio.

In this world of plunder and injustice most of the world doesn’t have the time or space to mourn the loss of a few trees, as they struggle to survive, busy with prayers for their sons, for whom the storm of destruction is always edging closer, or for their daughters, who might be as easily obliterated as the trout lilies were just moments ago. Most of the world just works, so much work, work to eat, to pay the doctor, or the school, or the landlord. I am not blind to this and yet I am.

In this world of injustice and plunder we are all blind and yet not-blind to the network of suffering that extends beyond us, that is connected to us, by the gas we put in the tanks of our cars, by the strawberries we pop into our mouths, plucked by women stooping over the rows, the chemicals that grew them lingering on their fingertips, washed into the streams. We are equally blind and yet not-blind to the networks of beauty that connect us to the trees to the soil to the insects, to the birds to the air to the clouds to the rain. It is a forced blindness, like the blinkers the street horses wear, we might turn our heads and see sometimes what we know is there, but privileged or not we must all move forward, we must all eat and take care of the business of the day, and so we turn back to the road before us.

But the daily road is not one that necessarily numbs us, no, it is grief that makes us blind, or rather, the powerful urge to not feel the grief. And in not feeling  we turn off pathways within ourselves, the networks within our bodies that connect us to the world, the networks by which we are moved or wounded or nourished. To feel the beauty we must also feel the grief.

My daughter and I watched them pick up the fallen trees and place them in a pile. We watched them roll over the place where the trout lilies were, and toss the last fragments of the pink dogwood limbs into a heap, like rubbish.We watch as the men and their machines do the work they must do. Tears gather on our eyelashes, slip down our cheeks. We will not die to the beauty of the world, we will not hedge our grief.

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