I was leaving Pine Level, driving toward Selma one morning when I saw this tree: A hardwood splayed into a painfully widespread “Y” by a utility crew in a bucket truck.
I get why it was trimmed. It was a preemptive strike, to protect utility lines before the hurricane. And indeed, Florence unleashed devastation on eastern North Carolina. Crews from all over the country came to help residents restore their power. But I can’t help but think, symbolically, someone could have done this in a kinder, gentler way.
This butchered beauty has become a totem of the times I live in, of someone’s end justified by their blunt means. I can’t turn away.
A friend tells me to “stay away from the radio” because he is being interviewed about his opinions on the Silent Sam statue. I can’t turn away.
Migrant workers rush to harvest bushels of sweet potatoes from fields and I think about the children in tents, still separated from their parents. I can’t turn away.
I open the voter guide to the six amendments proposed on the ballot in the upcoming election and the wording is too difficult to decipher. I can’t turn away.
Almost every recent conversation with other women has revealed the flotsam of their buried experiences with sexual harassment, assault and rape, perpetrated on them as adults, teenagers, and yes, even as children. I can’t turn away.
The totem is there.
How do we come together? I’m trying to close the divide, with community dialogue, and with art, at the Art Pop-Up at the Selma Visitor Center, at the “Telling Our Stories” sessions at the Harrison Center for Active Aging, at the fourth Friday open mics at the Selma Historical Museum, and other community projects.
I can’t turn away.