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. 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.