In Praise of the Unlovely

(7.9.17) Bereft

Much of the time I teeter between despair and terror, alarmed by the perils—political and human—that trouble our country, defeated when I try to imagine any real way to help. It’s tempting to turn away instead, to focus as much as current events permit on what is lovely in this broken world: the bluebirds feeding their fledglings from the mealworm feeder, the full-body embrace of the bumblebees in the milkweed flowers, the first dance of the bride and the bridegroom, whose eyes never leave each other in all their turnings on the gleaming floor.

Remembering the lovely things can help, but for me what helps more is to think of the unlovely things. The tiniest tragedy can be a reminder of all the ways the world has found of working itself out. Someone steps on a cockroach on the dark backyard deck, and by morning the ants have arrived to carry it off, infinitesimal bit by bit. A car hits a doe on a country road, and the flies share it with the glossy vultures. A beer can tossed carelessly from the car window will glint like a treasure in the sunlight on the blacktop, and even in its shining it is already in the long grip of corrosion—eighty years, a hundred—that will take it down to fertile soil.