What Was Really Happening With Those Azaleas

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Six or seven months ago as I walked to my office one morning, I saw a man from the grounds crew chopping up azalea plants by the sidewalk. My first reaction was horror—those plants were perfectly healthy. While I stood there on the sidewalk with my mouth hanging open, the man turned to me and shrugged. He spread his arms out wide over the wreckage then shook his head with resigned disgust.


Credit Image: Toshiyuki IMAI on Flickr

“Somebody plowed right through here last night.”


That’s when I saw the bigger picture. He wasn’t tearing down healthy azaleas—he was disentangling broken limbs from the car-shaped hole that had been left in the hedge. Next to the car-shaped hole, two deep tire tracks gouged the lawn all the way back to the spot where they had left the blacktop. Someone had gone across two lanes, up and over the sidewalk, across the grass and into our azaleas. Jesus.

He and I shook our heads in wonder. But there was nothing for me to do, so he got back to his work and I headed on to mine. As I continued on the sidewalk, he said, “Careful—there’s glass everywhere.”

The pebbled sidewalk lay covered with a glaze of green glass pebbles from the shattered windshield. I picked my way through. By that afternoon, the hole in the hedge had been transformed into a seamless part of the landscaping. The sidewalk had been cleared as if nothing had happened. Life went back to normal.

I’ve walked that same path a few hundred times since that day, in winter, then spring, then summer. Today, though, I walked by at a different time of day. The angle of the sun sparkled off something in the grass. The lawn twinkled with pale green jewels, mixed in with the browning leaves and twigs from the old oaks, the acorn caps left by squirrels, the brittle grass of summer and the dry Georgia clay. All around, emeralds at my feet. A carpet of peridots.

Through all those days of all that weather, the pebbles of windshield glass survived. It got me thinking about the scars we carry with us from the hardest parts of our lives. The rough-edged surprises that can still make us bleed. The fallout. The flinch.

The evidence that something broke here, a while ago.

From a distance, and in the right light, they shine like jewels.


Baddest Mother Ever




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