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.

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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.

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