Several years ago I was at Matthews United Methodist Church, and I saw their solution to deer and other critters that were eating their garden. It was a fence. A big fence: 7 feet high. I was very intrigued and used my best investigative skills to track down their supplier and to order a smaller version for myself.
Prior to actually ordering it though, I researched the bylaws of our neighborhood. We don’t have an HOA so I called one of the neighbors I knew and knew that he had lived here since this neighborhood was built. He gave me some tips: he told me to contact the builder and word it in such a way that if, and only if, there was a problem, they should contact me. If I heard nothing, I would assume I was free to put my fence up.
I heard nothing so Paul and I hired someone to install it one weekend that we happened to be out of town. We arrived home to a fabulous, deer proof fence.
Monday morning, I went to my mailbox and found a very official letter warning me that I had broken code number 35-1473, and I was expected to remove my fence posthaste. I was devastated. I actually felt sick to my stomach … until I got to the signature: Mr. Robert Martin, President of the Nonexistent HOA for Providence Forest Subdivision.
He pranked me so bad (and yes, so well) that I felt nothing but admiration. In fact, I still have the letter. But it also made me nervous. People don’t like change. I was worried people might complain. To hedge my bets, that summer I planted sunflowers around the periphery of the fence, thinking if it’s beautiful, people will be less likely to complain. Sure enough, I had people ask if I lived at the “sunflower house.”
A couple of years ago, I was driving to Winston-Salem for a funeral. I was in a somber, reflective mood, but as I drove I happened to notice great swaths of sunflowers, zinnias, and poppies along the highway. For a moment, I felt lighter. The flowers reminded me that even in hard times, beauty can lift our spirits.
The NCDOT Wildflower Program has been planting and maintaining these areas in the median and the edges of the roads for more than 30 years. I can’t help but wonder if this hasn’t trickled down from Lady Bird Johnson’s 1965 Highway Beautification Act. Of course the aim of that legislation was more environmentally focused than simply planting flowers, but I wonder if the First Lady knew what an impact it would continue to have this many years later. It is much like good deeds. Sometimes we plant the seeds but we rarely see the results. So 58 years later I say a quiet little thank you to Lady Bird Johnson as I pass the great patches of beauty that line the roads; she planted seeds for flowers she would never see.