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Monday, January 25, 2010

Forever?

Immortality is defined as endurance, everlasting life or perpetuity.  Deathlessness is listed as a synonym. I disagree.  Immortality is enduring in spite of death. 
It makes me wonder how I will leave my mark. 
I've compared my garden to my life.  If I stopped all care today how much would be left in five years.  Would there be any sign of the paths or beds? I figure the fence will last a while, but not forever, branches would fall, breaking sections that would remain fallen with no one to repair them. Stone paths would soon disappear under a growth of moss, then weeds followed by layers of new topsoil. In ten years would anyone be able to tell there was ever a garden here? The stone wall would stand as a curiosity, alone in the woods until it, too was broken apart by new growth and fallen debris. At what point does the memory of my work become so slight as to be nonexistant?
If not my garden, then what do I leave?
How will the world to come know I've been here?

I've seen old home sites where very little remains - the indentention of a cistern, a rusted well pump.


No, there is nothing we can build that will last forever against the forces of nature.  There must be something else.

I go back to my garden. Up here, on our hill there have been many lives lived out.  A home once stood where our own now stands, dozed into its own basement and covered with dirt. We find marbles or old rustedd tools almost everytime we dig a hole. A spring across the hill shows the work of the human hand that dug into the rock a basin in which to collect water.

My favorite old place, though, is a spot that comes alive in spring.  The house has been gone for over one hundred years but remnants of the home still prosper.  The work of some gardener brightens the dark woods for a couple weeks every year as hundreds of daffodils bloom from bulbs reborn out of the earth in which they were planted so many years ago.  Baby's breath spirea blooms on untrimmed bushes, daughters of some original plant, placed in the ground before the invention of automobiles. Cold blue periwinkle blooms cover the ground creating beds for deer and a protective canopy for mice scrambling beneath its vines.
Some of the bulbs and periwinkle have made their way into my own garden with the help of my hands and a trowel. A spirea shoot transferred by my daughter drops its white blossoms like snow in May.  Here they bloom again every spring, reminding me of that earlier settler who changed her landscape with color.
Perhaps in fifty years, there will be no garden here, no remnant of the design I so lovingly dug into the earth. In a couple hundred years, our home may be gone, this hill returned to woods or covered by a futuristic apartment complex. But also, perhaps, a seed will have escaped, growing where unexpected, an offspring from a parent planted generations before it, a bush blooming white in the middle of a forest, or a purple aster pushing up through a crack of some future sidewalk announcing to whomever sees it that I was here, that I was real.
We each strive for immortality in different ways. Some of us do it through our careers, the people we have changed, the lessons taught, actions we have guided. Others have turned hobbies into vocations where interactions with people may bring a bit of immortality. A painting or a story can change the way a whole society thinks. Still others change the world merely by the way they have chosen to live, treating people kindly, causing a chain reaction of small changes that continue on through the ages. Of course, the reverse is also true. There are some that leave the world a worse place and gain their immortality through spreading evil.
Again, I ask myself what will I leave? What will be my mark. I like to imagine some unborn person being kind to a stranger or loving a child because of something I have done sometime in my life; that future kindness blooming liked a yellow daffodill from a bulb I planted when I smiled at a stranger I passed on the street.

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