Hasslebrook probably thinks too much. Maybe he thinks because he doesn’t talk much. Or maybe he doesn’t talk much because he’s thinking.
Not that he comes up with solutions. Mostly he wonders. He wonders if there really are people like the ones in TV commercials. In church, he will sometimes miss the sermon because he’s pondering something new in the Scripture lesson.
His mind often makes comparisons. Looking over his flower garden recently, he saw a similarity between intrusive plants and aggressive drivers. He wondered if some humans and plants might share a twisted gene for bullying and competition. He didn’t wonder enough to do research. He just found the similarity remarkable.
So when the flash flood came last month and disabled his bridge, he had much food for thought.
The big rain came at night. By midnight Hasslebrook’s happy little stream was a mud-red juggernaut, carrying along tree trunks seemingly too big to have fit under bridges upstream. High-water lines on trees showed the creek rose 15 feet. It topped his bridge.
Now Hasslebrook stands on the bank of a peaceful stream – 12-foot wide again, ankle deep, crystal-clear. The great destroyer of last week is puttering its way over the solid rock creek bed, whispering hello to the bridge as it passes underneath, as it always did, seeming not to notice that its fierce alter-ego had smashed the bridge out of commission.
As Hasslebrook ponders this transformation of his creek, he feels…what? The popular word today is “surreal.” And it fits. The scene is unreal, unbelievable. He looks up at the bridge towering overhead and tries to recreate in his mind his creek reaching that height and higher.
Then as so often happens, a clear comparison came to his mind: the Republican Revolution now underway in Raleigh.
Republicans came out of nowhere and swept away Democratic legislators long-secure in their districts. And once in control, the flood of their legislation was determined and inescapable.
Hasslebrook admires their efficiency of action, but he doesn’t agree with the substance of it. Just two days before the big rain, a friend had sent him a link to a New York Times editorial, “The Decline of North Carolina,” that listed some of the Republicans’ actions that we here know so well. “Decline,” Hasslebrook thought, “Yes, my proud state is in decline.”
But the now- quiet stream gives him pause. It doesn’t fit in the comparison to the Republican Revolution. Raleigh is a swirling turbulence today, not a dancing brook. The stream obviously speaks of N.C.at rest.
Maybe this is about the future, he thought. But when in the future?
If it’s near future, say 10 years, then the Republican Revolution worked! Their predictions of “freedom” came true. Crushing labor unions and slashing environmental regulations did bring in business, and jobs are abundant. The disabled bridge is an institution the GOP pushed aside – maybe the public school system. It’s still standing, but now it’s more bygone than busy.
If the future is farther out, Hasslebrook thought, then the peaceful stream is N.C. after Democrats have regained power and sorted out the GOP years. The debris of GOP failure litters our lives in N.C., but the stream of state is calm once more.
As Hasslebrook turns to leave the creek, the phrase “Bridge of Sighs” pops into his wondering mind. He muses that it’s appropriate both literally (of his destroyed bridge) and figuratively (of the institutions destroyed by the Republican flood).
“No matter,” he says out loud. “Time will tell.”