Legacy and Roses - Girl of Cardigan

The house we live in now was Favorite’s before he knew me.  He bought it from the estate of the original owner, a woman named Clara, who had recently passed away.

I don’t know much about Clara.  I know she had eccentric taste in wallpaper.  I know she preferred the security of a front window that doesn’t open, and that she labeled either plants or lost pet souls with hammered metal tags, marking planting or grave sites with tall wooden posts.  I know we credit her for the way the doors of this creaky place spontaneously open, for the strange settling sounds in the hallway, for the friendly way the house moves and swells and sings.

I don’t know if she had family, don’t know if she was lonely in her aging or contented in community.  I know that, eventually, she stopped changing the wallpaper, and that, eventually, she died.

What I know for certain, though, is that she loved the feeling of her hands in the soil, that she loved to cultivate the beauty of living things.  Every spring, when the ground erupts with shoots from bulbs that she planted, when strategically ordered hydrangeas and rhododendrons and dogwood blossoms begin to dance their colors in turn across the yard, I know that they are here by her design, an artistic echo, a legacy continuing on seasonal repeat.  I know that when my table is ripe with the fragrance of her roses, I remember her and whisper her name.

Legacy and Roses - Girl of Cardigan

Legacy.  How easy it is for us to get lost in the bigness of that word, in the depth of the things we have not done, in the grandeur of the things we wish to do.  How quick we are to believe that only the most obvious successes are important, that somehow the weight of our lives can only be measured by the sum of our awards and accolades and careers and contributions to science.  As though any of us are capable of more than just a series of small, raw, stumbling steps, as many of them ugly as beautiful, some of them leading to remarkable places, others just leading us steadily home.

It’s easy to forget, when the days stretch long and the dishes are many and our lives seem small and insignificant, that we are valued pieces of a winding, ancient story.  Our smallest contributions, our passions, our designed and designated loves – the dirt under our fingernails – the marks of these things stay.  Their echoes bloom in season.  Their purpose is revealed in time.

Bleed legacy into flowerbeds.  Use your time wisely.  Leave marks.

Plant roses.

Girl of Cardigan

  • Kelley Friend May 20, 2014 at 2:50 pm

    So beautiful. Made me tear up a bit… makes me want to go home and take my 8-month son for a walk around the rose garden in our community. 🙂

    • karyn May 20, 2014 at 7:30 pm

      I have an entirely new appreciation for roses now. Love you!

  • Daniella May 20, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    This is so beautiful!

    • karyn May 20, 2014 at 7:30 pm

      Thank you, lovely!

  • Janice Christman May 20, 2014 at 3:45 pm

    This is probably my favorite writing so far…and that was hard to say, because I love all of your writing! I felt so moved by this…maybe because I miss my Mom, who died two years ago and she loved roses. Maybe it is because we have a ghost who visits us here and squeezes our toes while we sleep and has appeared once to me. I hope our ghost was a lover of flowers and color and all wonderful things, too! I know our ghost is sweet, though and that soothes me. Thank you for your warm tribute to Clara and tell Fable about her when she is old enough to know. Wonderful praise!

    • karyn May 20, 2014 at 7:30 pm

      Aw Janice, that means so much to me. I’m also quite glad I’m not the only one with a ghost. 🙂 love.

  • Patti W May 20, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    Our previous house had over 30 roses planted by two owners previous to us. We grew to love those roses, ( also hate , so many to care for) some like our own children. I too wondered about the souls that planted such a beautiful hard.and not only roses, lily of the valley,crocus, peonies , something almost every month from early spring to fall.
    We brought some of those roses to our current home, our favorite,darker red Mr Lincoln. I don’t think the precious lady minded. We have had no sign of her disfavor. enjoy those roses Karnyn, May this give you a life long love of our beloved Portland flower.

    • karyn May 20, 2014 at 7:29 pm

      I love this, Patti. Thank you so much!

  • Tabarek May 21, 2014 at 3:55 am

    I read almost everything you’ve written here , but never left a comment
    This time I had to, i think this is the best piece you’ve ever posted, it made me tear up and smile …Beautiful
    Thank you

    • karyn May 21, 2014 at 7:46 am

      Oh, Tabarek, thank you! I’m so glad you commented, and that you’re here reading. Day made. 🙂

  • Monique Birt May 21, 2014 at 6:33 am

    Beautiful thoughts on legacy… and roses 🙂 I cannot wait to be in the city of roses

    • karyn May 21, 2014 at 7:46 am

      Yay Yay Yay Yay Yay!!!!!

  • Liesl May 21, 2014 at 5:28 pm

    Ah, roses and the fruit of a well-designed garden. You know I loved this post and also thought of my previous abode at el Mansion. It’s so very lovely to experience the seasons in such a grand way, all because someone else cared to make it happen. I will continue to plant and dream and cultivate and not mind my dirty fingernails (that’s why they are always painted brightly!) and cracked fingers. 🙂

    • karyn May 21, 2014 at 7:44 pm

      I absolutely thought of you as I wrote this… such a gift you have. It makes me so happy to think of all the years and years and years the things you’ve planted will continue to bloom. Gorgeous, that.

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  • Bethany May 24, 2014 at 7:34 am

    This post made my heart ache with the pure beauty of your words. How often we need to be reminded to use our time wisely, and invest in the right things! Thank you for this post!