I am here, now. But it won't always be that way. Someday, I'll be gone. What will be left of me - once I'm gone? Oh, I know that the consequences of my actions will go on forever, even beyond human existence.
As long as there are humans, there will be someone who has been affected by what I have done whether it is a multigenerational reaction to some kind deed or a smile, or a personality formed, in part, by my thoughtless word that made someone less happy perhaps setting off a chain reaction of unhappiness. But even after that. Yes, even after there are no more human souls and bodies taking up space on this temporary planet, I will continue. Carbon from my dead tissue will remain for many generations and when it is gone it will still affect the earth and what grows from it. Even if our planet is destroyed by extreme gravity or by an exploding sun, I will still be here - or somewhere.
Yes, I know all that, but right now I'm thinking of just the next several generations. What will be left that I have touched? I've had some training in archaeology and anthropology, but even if I hadn't I would still look at long deserted objects and imagine the person or people who once touched those objects. What were their daily lives like? In what sort of family did they live? Were they generally happy? Or did they look longingly at passing birds and dream of flying off with them?
I like to imagine some far-off unborn person finding something of mine and wondering about me. How close will she get to understanding my life, my dreams? What will be found?
Perhaps it will be a stone flower bed still standing though encroaching woods have surrounded it. Perhaps there will be a blooming flower, the decendant of one nurtured with my hands. I know that once I'm dead, I probably won't know or even care. But I might. If I die into my dream of becoming bird-like and flying throughout history, finding out the answers to my questions about lives from the past, then I will know. I will visit the places and times I have wondered about. I'll see how that woman lived who died in 1879 leaving me few clues other than a tombstone with her name.
I'll see how the deserted house looked when it was a home, when the yard was scattered with pieces of a family's living. Maybe I'll learn why they painted the house red. Was it because they lived far back in the hills where the sun comes up late and sets early? Was it because so much was brown and dark inside the cabin lit with only light from the hearth? I see the cabin now and notice there are few windows. Did a young wife insist on red paint just to add some brightness into her daily life? Maybe I'll see dishes on the table, food cooking on a stove or over a fire.
I'll peek in the narrow front window and see a father gently help his child fill a plate then look up to smile at his wife. Is he the same man who put the horse shoe over the door, ends pointed up so the luck wouldn't spill out. What did he plan for his family? How hard was his life? Was his back tired at night from plowing the field by the creek? How many times were the cracks of this cabin rechinked? I desperately want to know these things. Yes, If I die into my dream, I'll see these people and many more. Maybe the woman who lived here is one buried in the nearby graveyard. Is she surrounded by her family? Or did her children grow up and move on to other places to be burried there?
I think about the people who lie beneath the ground as my daughter studies their names. Do they know we pass by their house and think about the red color chosen to adorn their lives. Or that we would some day walk over top their bodies decaying beneath our feet. Bodies that were once alive, people that ate, slept and thought about their lives that were just beginning as they smiled when they admired their newly painted red cabin.