There is some work being done on the grounds of my townhouse. Everywhere one looks, there are piles of gravel and pipes; bulldozer-type machines parked in random places; and that lovely red mud the South is known for. Overturned in clumps and ridges, it scars the landscape, making it virtually impossible to walk anywhere without getting stuck in the muck of it all.
So there is a new system in my home to taking out the garbage and the recycling. One must first don the large, rubber boots that now have a place of honor by the front door. It has been like this for weeks, and there is every reason to believe it will continue to be like this for weeks to come.
We don't fuss. We don't complain. We simply put on the boots when we need to toss the garbage. That's just how it is now.
We didn't used to need to do this. We could walk out across the soft grass in bare feet if we wanted. My herb garden - composed mostly of souvenir plants from Colonial Williamsburg - lined the way to the bins. Now, the soft grass is gone, the herbs destroyed by machines, and hard red mud that lay beneath it all is exposed in the place of what was.
Putting on boots to take out the garbage. Such a minor annoyance, really, in the grand scheme of life. In just a few weeks, it's become an instinctive habit, and soon it will just seem normal. Like it's always been this way.
Even to the smallest change.
We adapt to big changes, too. The ones that break us, even. The ones that create new landscapes in our lives. We say we will never adjust, that we will never get used to the way it is now. But we do, because deep inside of us, the primal that remains knows that like the city hawks and suburban coyotes, we, too, must adapt in order to survive.
We could miss what used to be. We could miss who used to be. But we would get bogged down in the muck. Some part of us knows that we have to simply have to plow through to get where we need to be.
I won't lie, I miss the little pathway I created. I miss the herbs so carefully selected on one of our favorite travels. But these things are gone now, and missing them does little to restore what was. The new landscape, barren as it is, has become normal to my eyes...but it, too, will change. By spring, the work will be done. The ground will be leveled back to normal, and grass will grow again. I will recreate the pathway and replace my tattered garden with new plants.
I don the boots without even thinking and walk outside, bag of trash in hand. I lift my eyes upward, past the barrenness of the landscape. I see trees alive with autumn fire. I see a pileated woodpecker gliding from one tree to another. I see emerald green moss covering a fallen tree. I see leaves drift slowly into the creek, where they spin and float away. Captivated by it all, I move forward, remembering that I will miss what beauty remains if I avoid plowing through the muck.