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Clusters of plump red berries, the autumn fruit of Missouri Honeysuckle bushes (Lonicera maackii), red-flag the attention of environmentalists. These berries, of no nutritional value, attract birds that either ingest them or drop them on the ground to be reseeded for the next season.

Originally planted in gardens as a border shrub, the Missouri Honeysuckle has become a nuisance. Its aggressive growth chokes out other native plants around them and infests easements, forest floors, and creek bottoms making them impassable for hikers and hunters. Utility workers have labored for hours to free up their lines.

Brush cutters, chainsaws, or hand tools, together with applications of herbicides are the only effective means to eliminate these bushes that can grow up to twenty feet tall.

The untrammeled growth of Missouri Honeysuckle bushes, I used to note during walks, still gives me pause—a prodigious greening power that kills life around it. Obvious parallels with bacterial infections, including Covid, come to mind. However, lesser ones, like unconscious rituals, unthinkingly practiced for decades, can be just as deeply rooted and harmful. On the surface, like the glistening red berries on the Missouri Honeysuckle, everything looks proper, but a closer inspection reveals shallow thinking and skewed choices that produce turmoil and confusion.

Reliance upon the power of God can eliminate such infringements into our psyches and enable us to walk unencumbered into the Light: streaming into our senses and ordering our sense of on-going creation.

Words skitter as I plumb my depths. None seem to hang around for my use—as if they, too, were stunned by what happened.

It had stormed that evening, like being thrashed about in a washing machine, with no turn-off switch. An explosive crack sounded; then, the thud and splatter upon the street compelled me to my front window streaming with rain. Barely could I make out what happened. Shuddering seized me—It was my sweet gum tree.

Only at daybreak did I learn the full extent of the damage: the uppermost limb had been twisted off like a corkscrew; its lustrous leaves already crimping around the edges. With such an injury, the tree could no longer grow. The rest of it would have to come down.

Over fifteen years I had benefited from the sweet gum’s shade, its radiant greens and red-golds, its lofty branches, its symmetry enhancing my bungalow, even its gumballs I raked each March until I was unable.

The sweet gum’s demise accentuates the impermanence of life, including my own. Yet, its welcoming limbs, in all seasons, had heartened me, and I am grateful.

There will be another tree to replace the sweet gum, and eventually there will be shade, symbol of God’s protection and care.

August’s riot is underway: black-eyed susans with clusters of golden-blackness erupting from formal gardens, country roadsides, and cracks in pavements. Hearty, boisterous, the wildflowers appear like gossips, their petelled heads leaning toward one another, with occasional breezes disturbing the configurations. At intervals, snappish rainstorms pelt the flowers, affixed to thick hairy stems. With the sun’s reappearance, the resulting mishmash slowly diminishes, and the gossips resume their chatter, with even more verve.

With the advent of autumn, black-eyed susans lose their petals, their cone centers hardening with seeds, with promise of spring’s proliferation. Even their colors lend their gold to maples, aspens, and tulip trees; to waning sunlight outlining blackened limbs.

And another year passes. This has been a good one.

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