Something my friend Seamus said long ago crossed my mind the other day. It was in the twentieth century, soon after we met. We were discussing the specifics of some matter of importance or other when Seamus held up his hand and said, “Hold on now, Danko. I don’t like to get bogged down in the details of things. Otherwise we’ll be debating this forever!”
We both smiled, the knowing smiles of two men who travel through time and fully grasp the concept of ‘forever,’ at least as much as any human can.
“I’m a ‘big picture’ kind of guy,” Seamus concluded. I smiled.
It’s true, he is. I try to be that way too. Sometimes I don’t have to try.
This came to mind in an earlier century at my Winterfell home the other morning, after I’d finished the day’s correspondence and other business, rushing through it a bit to allow enough time for an excursion around the Realm.
I hurried out my front door, my Secretary (He insists on capitalization) following close behind. Just a few steps into the yard, I stopped suddenly. Dutifully, he did too.
“Were these trees here yesterday, Mr. Afterthought?” There was a brief silence.
“Is this another trick question, Ambassador?” he asked with hesitation. “Or perhaps rhetorical and I’m not required to answer…he said hopefully?” He smiled.
“Uh, no. I just don’t recall trees right here at my front door,” I replied. Mr. Afterthought looked down at his shoes. “Or do I?” I asked myself aloud as I looked at the golden leaves. “They’re very nice, sort of a natural pathway to my door. And with the last days of the fall colors, a very beautiful welcome for visitors.”
“Yes, sir,” said Mr. Afterthought.
I leaned toward him and said quietly, as if someone might be listening, “Were they always here?”
Mr. Afterthought looked up from his shoes. “Always, sir?”
“Of course I mean, in my time here – not ‘always’ as in, ‘since the beginning of time!'”
“Of course, sir.”
“Well, were they?”
He quietly cleared his throat. “The trees were a gift from the Princess,” he said. “They have been here for some time now but not ‘always,'” he said, putting extra emphasis on the final word of his sentence.
“Oh,” I nodded as I looked up at the trees, still full of fall at this late date. “From the Princess, you say?”
“Yes, sir. At the end of summer, a team of worker elves came up from Rosehaven and installed them to Her Royal Highness’ specifications.”
I looked at the trees. “I’ve been away from home far too long, Mr. Afterthought.”
“You have something to add, Mr. A?”
“Nothing, sir. Just that…” he paused and looked away, apparently debating whether to proceed.
“Go on, man, out with it!”
“Sir, you have been in residence on several occasions since the trees…err, have been in residence. Sir.” He smiled, a small but polite and dutiful smile.
I rarely experience the feeling of embarrassment but this was bordering on one of those times. It probably doesn’t look very good that a writer – a person who relies on his powers of observation – wasn’t sure if he’d noticed new (and very tall!) trees leading to his own front door.
“Well,” I welled, “It’s true, I have been here several times this autumn…” I stammered, “but…I haven’t stayed long.” I sounded somewhat defensive, even to me. “…and although I do pop in and out frequently when I’m here, it’s rare that I actually use the front door,” I said, rather definitively, possibly too much so.
“Yes, sir.” Mr. Afterthought looked at his shoes once more.
I took a step closer to him. “Was that actual agreement, Mr. A, or was that ‘Yes, sir” simply a perfunctory response, as you would give to virtually anything I might say?” I inquired.
“The latter, sir.”
“I see,” I said.
“Yes, sir,” he replied.
I suppressed the desire to sneer at him.
“Well then, I must be off. I’m out to tour Winterfell and see what else is new around here. Make a note that I should send the Princess a personal thank you for these trees.”
“Yes, sir.” Mr. Afterthought pulled his notepad and pencil from the inside pocket of his coat and recorded my request. He looked up at me. “Will there be anything more, Ambassador?”
“Not at this time, Mr. A.” I adjusted my coat collar as I turned and said, “I shan’t be gone long, a few hours is all.”
I stopped and turned. “Shan’t, Mr. A.”
“Shan’t, sir.” He nodded. Although this moment did seem sneer-appropriate, I took a pass once again.
I turned to follow the path through the trees, then stopped and turned. “Oh, and Mr. Afterthought, hire someone to rake up these leaves and remove them before the first snow.”
“It has already been arranged, sir.
“Very good then. Cheers, Mr. A.”
“Enjoy your explorations, sir.”
Yes, Mr. A, I thought as I ventured off, I shall most definitely do that, indeed. And even though I’m a big picture kind of guy, like Seamus, I think perhaps this time as I tour the Realm of the Roses, I will stop here and there to smell the individual rose, rather than all the roses.
Ambassador Danko Whitfield and Mr. Bob Afterthought
at Whitfield Cottage, Winterfell