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Last sync:2023-01-20 19:15
In which John Green visits the small town of Knightstown, Indiana (and its cemetery), which makes him think about trees, art, graveyards, and the unpredictable future.


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A Bunny
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Good morning, Hank; it's Friday. I got up around 8:00, went downstairs to pick up the camera, and then the Yeti and I drove east, past the kind of endless corn fields that could make one wonder whether corn monoculture might one day lead to a zombie apocalypse, and then we arrived in Knightstown, Indiana. We were there to help two Swedish architects purchase a tree, which I realize sounds like code for a drug deal or high-stakes international diplomacy, but... yeah, that's the fascinating life of the museum curator's husband. Anyway, I got bored after a while and decided to walk across the street to the huge Knightstown cemetery. I love cemeteries; for one thing, they contain a lot of names, which is very helpful for a writer. Hannah J. Leisure; and Fred and Blonda Stickler; and Minnie Hooker; and Mary McFall; and Ephraim Confare; and Walter Manlove; and Waitsell Cary, the founder of Knightstown. I also love cemeteries because they contain so many stories you get to imagine: The union dead, the first marriage of Knightstown. And the more you look, the more narratives you find coming out of tombstones. There are the straightforward ones like the sadness of losing a child, the amazingness of being married for 61 years; but also the complicated ones like... wait, who was the dude in that 61-year marriage? Valva or Mona? Were they Knightstown's first single-sex marriage? Probably not, but I hope so! And while we're on the topic of stories that get weirder the more you think about them, what's the deal with Walter Manlove's wife? Knightstown is a small place, and like a lot of towns in the Midwest, it's shrinking. I drove over to the downtown, with its '57 Chevys and old-fashioned ice cream joints and ducks wearing headscarves, Red's Hot Tanning and a closed bookstore and a place called "Bittersweet Memories," where I bought this for Henry's room because it seems to me like literally the best advice you can give a child... and also an adult. It's easy to feel nostalgic in Knightstown, with its paint-chipped gazebo and I-don't-believe-in-ghosts-but-that-mansion-is-definitely-haunted mansions — but Knightstown has a present and a future as well as its past, which is something that people tend to forget about small towns in America. Someday, that little girl will decide if she wants to be part of this town's future, or if she wants to indulge in the great American pastime of lighting out for the territories. But we don't yet know what she'll decide, or what it'll mean for Knightstown. Thinking about that made me think about Walter Manlove's wife, Gussie. She was 28 when her husband died, and I could imagine her picking out that headstone, committing right then and there to being buried next to her husband. But she didn't yet know her future, Hank. Maybe she survived to 113 and outlived the century she'd committed herself to. Maybe she forgot to pay for the plot next to him. Or, more likely, maybe she had a life that the 28-year-old widow couldn't have imagined. Maybe she married someone else and built a life, and although haunted by her unkept promise, chose to be buried with her new spouse. Hank, I think that's why, in the end, all we can really do is be kind to each other. We don't know what's ahead – for us, or for our places. After all, Hank, nothing is etched in stone... well, until it is. I'll see you on Monday.