There is a gaping hole in the picket fence that once stood happily defining the edge of my front yard. It’s a place where the wood has simply degraded and fallen away. I find it significant that it happened under the weight and consequence of great beauty: an old and beloved honeysuckle vine that rested there for decades finally had its way with it.
Passersby ask about it. And we stand back and look at it and talk over it – about the nature of all organic living things, how they all interrelate and change and evolve and then pass their lives on into other forms and purpose. Quincy the dog checks on it daily. He does not cross its remembered boundary, but he does bark through it – calling out his greeting to the world through this new compelling open space.
The fence was built for me by a friend soon after I moved into the house – new to town, new to her friendship. She constructed some of the panels by hand, crafting a design with creativity and personal meaning. She used as her model a design element utilized throughout my first published book (“The God-Dog Connection”) – and surprised me with this thoughtful remembrance designed into the project.
In fact, it was this same friend who gave me the small, young, honeysuckle vine to begin my plantings incorporating the fence as part of the overall effect. So these two elements began their lives together, immediately intertwined (both literally and figuratively). Over the years, the vine of sweet pale yellow blossoms grew and expanded its influence; it fed the bees and butterflies, intrigued the birds and human visitors, and flavored the very air around it – with color and scent and southern hospitality.
And then, one day, the fence began to creak forward; and I tried to straighten it, to prop it up, but it eventually gave way completely, and it crumbled to the ground. Its familiar posts and pickets that had so long defined that part of my yard were gone. And they left in their wake an unfamiliar, view-altering, open space. What once had been a boundary, a definition, an identifier – was no longer there. And it was a vine of sweet, gently flowering honeysuckle – a thing of beauty – that had altered its composition and worn it away.
I suspect that right now we are all noticing great gaping holes everywhere around us – ripped through our realities and definitions, our familiar lives and views of the world. These things, too, have fallen and crumbled away. And we mourn the loss and grieve for all that they represented. We feel the jagged edges of the pieces, and try our best to rebuild them as they were before. But they no longer fit together or hold in place, they fall from our hands, as they have already passed into being something else.
And I wonder if perhaps, one day, we will find that it was something of great beauty that brought down those perceptions and boundaries – just as my picket fence fell under the presence of the honeysuckle. Perhaps we will find that the grace and beauty of our humanity, our compassion and courage for one another, our vulnerability made achingly visible, was what ultimately redefined us – in ways we would never have chosen or imagined or desired on our own – but which, in the end, left us infinitely truer and wiser.
I suspect that our reality is meant to change over time – and to change organically. And perhaps, every once in awhile, it is meant to completely collapse – perhaps under the weight of something wretchedly unforeseen, yet radically beautiful.