A Heavy-Handed Parable about Love, Loss and Landscaping: A Guest Post

Hey all, Kristin Whittlesey asked if she could have some space to share this and I’m happy to give it to her though, obviously sad that the circumstances inspiring its creation have transpired. I don’t think that guest posts here are completely unprecedented, but they are unusual, so I just want to be clear that the credit for this beautiful piece goes to her.


We lost one of the laurels this week.

It was in the corner closest to the house, on the edge of the deck, just out of reach of the sprinkler.

We kind of knew it wasn’t getting as much water as the other plants, and we kept meaning to go back after we were done taking care of everything else and give it a good, deep hand-watering. But I got home from work late and was too tired to stand there in a cloud of mosquitoes for the extra five minutes. Then we had those concert tickets, and we were lucky to get the main watering done at all. You know how it goes. You just don’t think about it.

And then I looked out the window and the laurel was dead. Crisped and withered and dry as a bone.

I ran out immediately with the hose and gave it a thorough drenching. I tried frantically to think of ways to save it. Over the next few days we gave it our full attention, watering it frequently and poking at the interior branches for signs of life. But it was too late.

We planted that laurel, along with its many fellows, about a week before the 2010 flood. And I remember the elaborate lengths we went to, during those “don’t you dare shower” days of water restrictions, to keep those new plants alive. We bought several dozen five-gallon buckets, and every evening after work we drove to the park to fill them from the duck pond, just so we could keep everything well-watered. They were shiny and new, and our whole yard looked different and better for their presence.

We didn’t lose a one.

And by this summer, all those plants were well-established. We didn’t even think about them, to be honest. See, we planted grass seed this spring, and several beds of tender annuals, and it’s been so important to make sure those delicate sprouts and seedlings took root and thrived. The older, more established plants seemed to be doing just fine on their own.

Except now one of them is gone.

It’s entirely possible that it would have died anyway, of course. You never know with plants. But if there was anything we could have done, we didn’t do it, and now it’s too late.

“Why didn’t we water it?” we asked each other. Why did we assume it was just fine on its own, over there in the corner? When we looked at the yard, we didn’t even see that plant, so obsessed were we with the new and showy. And now there’s just a gaping hole in the landscape.

I’m still going to plant petunias, of course, and I’m still going to lavish them with love and water and mulch. But I’m also going to start paying a lot more attention to those laurels.


The Change

So, this is the part of Finnelson’s testimony I’d like to understand better (it’s in third person because he told Hays who wrote it down). Sorry it’s not really clean, but I’m just copying from what Google Books has:

[…]will settle matters better when we all get together Watts sat down and F turned off and went Red headed Will’s and turned out his horses as did also J Deraque and stayed there until the afternoon and returned to the square where the Bloody Fellow was up speaking in the center of the council He told not to go to war it was a bad step they were taking that he had been to hunt for the brothers they thought dead and that he found them they were good people the same as ever they did not wish to hurt them the Cherokees nor their children Look here at the things I fetched for myself likewise for you warriors When was the day that ever you went to your father and fetched as much as I have I did not go by myself others went me Ill had gone by myself perhaps you might have thought that I had made it myself You had better take talk and stay at home and mind your women and children The Bloody Fellow still standing Talohtisky rose said I too have been to Pensacola and seen the Governor as well as Watts and heard his talk I think a deal of his talk for it is good I shall try to tlo as he directed me and sat down The Bloody Fellow proceeded u Look says he at that flag don t you see the stars in it They are not towns they are nations there are thirteen of them These are people who are very strong and are the same as one man and if you know when you well you had better stay at home and mind your women and children The Bloody Fellow still standing Watts again got up and came forward said the day is come when I must bloody my hands again Tomorrow shall send off a runner to the Creek nation to fetch my friends in Then I shall nave people enough to go with to Cumberland or any place that I want to go to All then dispersed for about half an hour then returned all to their flaps painted black dancing the war dance in the square around the flag of the United States and continuing to dance until the evening At night they went to the town house and continued the war dance all night On the second day after arriving at Will’s town Finnelson returned from Red headed Will’s again to the square the Bloody Fellow who took him by the hand and asked him where he had been so long F answered through the Spanish country John Watts sitting near and hearing the conversation called F to sit down him and asked the news from the Governor at Orleans F answered not much but he wanted to see some of Cherokees for to deliver to them their guns and ammunition Watts asked F if there was no other news answered no not choosing to give him any other answer Watts said you have a letter Little John saw it out of your clothes at Red headed Will’s F answered he had a paper but it was not for him Watts him to go and bring that paper F went and took the letter Governor O Neal had given him for Watts tore it flung it into a creek and brought the passport from the Governor at Orleans which having the Spanish arms on it satisfied Watts Little John declaring those were the arms he saw on the paper that dropped[…]

So, I think a few things are going on here. One is that Finnelson  is in a unique position to appreciate what Bloody Fellow is saying, since he also travels a great deal. Bloody Fellow has been to Philadelphia (that’s where he got the flag he’s showing them). He’s seen U.S.ian cities and how they compare to Indian cities and Spanish and French cities. Finnelson might not have been to Philadelphia yet (though it looks like they send him to go talk to the Secretary of War later), but we’ve already seen him in Clarksville and New Orleans and he’s well-known to the dude in charge of New Madrid. So, he’d have reason to trust Bloody Fellow’s judgement about the realities of the United States–they’ve both seen some things. Finnelson also already knows that the Spanish and English are fine with supplying arms, but they don’t really want to have to ‘fess up to it and declare full-blown war on the U.S. so he’s probably less trusting of the word of the Spanish and English than others.

But most importantly, don’t you read this as Finnelson knowing Bloody Fellow particularly well? You can’t tell from this snippet, but Bloody Fellow is literally the first person Finnelson reports speaking to them here at Willstown. He takes Finnelson by the hand and asks him where he had been so long. And that’s when Finnelson decides to not show Watts the letter he wants to see. I can’t help but wonder if it’s not that Bloody Fellow’s speech exactly convinced Finnelson that what folks were about to do was wrong, but that Bloody Fellow reminded Finnelson of some bond they shared and so, if Finnelson was already feeling kind of ambiguous about the coming attack, Bloody Fellow’s acknowledgement of him is what convinced him to try to mitigate the harm of it.

I don’t know, though. I feel like I recognize the moment but not the dynamic.

I Continue to Ruin Rap for Young People Everywhere!

There are many subtle joys to being in your late 30s and uncool. The best of which is that you can be sitting in your office listening to that Hugo version of 99 Problems when the Jimmy John’s delivery kid comes in and he’s not really paying any attention to what you’re listening to because, by god, it has banjos.

And then, just as there’s a lull in the chit-chat, Hugo is all “aaannnndddd a bitch ain’t one.”

And the kid’s eyes go wide, like, “NOOOO! An old person likes that song!”

Victory is mine, folks, victory.