I attend a little writing group for a couple of hours per month. They all claim to be amateurs, but their stories frequently choke me up and bring on some tears. It seems so personal. Perhaps it’s like melodrama on TV, but these are real stories about real people. Their stories are like the string of bad luck I’ve had the last few months. I have lost a friend to suicide, an acquaintance to a broken neck from a bicycle accident and another to a car accident. Life in a beautiful little town is wonderful, but it can be deadly, and it seems everyone has an underlying tragedy behind their smiles and friendly behavior.
After our readings of things we had recently written, we had a little time left over, and when that happens we do a ten-minute prompted writing on some subject, usually a single word. A quotation from the TV show “Grey’s Anatomy” had been mentioned in one of the readings, “To leave something behind you have to leave.” I hadn’t seen that show, but a dying person had been counseled with that strange sentiment.
When it came time to create a “prompt” for our writing exercise, I suggested, “If I departed now, what would I leave?” Since we usually settle on a single word some of us wrote on the word “leaving.” All of the little essays were read, and they were strangely different. Here’s mine:
If I departed now what would I leave? Okay, I published a book in 1977, and it got some good responses by a major author, Pamela McCorduck, in The Fifth Generation, but that’s all long gone and forgotten. My piles of junk were at one time my valued possessions, but nearly all of them would be rejected by a Goodwill thrift store as unsalable, and thus worthless. What about my house and two cars? The cars are already old, and although they still run well, they have little relevance to me as a person; so what I am as a heritage-leaving person? My house will probably survive for a hundred years, but it is unlikely whoever is living here at that time will have the slightest interest in my improvements, even if they knew what they were. So, I’m vanished even on my most valued physical possessions. So what if anything will persist for say one hundred years that anyone will value that would be attributed to “me?” Not much! Close to nothing.
Perhaps some of my thoughts posted on my web site will be remembered, but even those will be digested into that great digester of everything digitized, the web. By then they will fly past anyone’s consciousness who encountered them. To be remembered probably requires a unique physical entity and not just an invention, as those lose their creator’s identity; even Henry Ford would be forgotten if his name wasn’t on his still existent brand of cars. Who remembers the other famous car makers, Durant, Packard, etc., and those were the greats of their era?
The only physical thing I’ve ever done or might do that might be remembered is “The Earth Ark”, the seed storage bank of wild seeds set high in Antarctica. That I can do! I know exactly what needs to be done, and I know I can do it, even in a week. Even before our next meeting in two weeks I will post some seeds to the South Pole station. There will be complications, but I can begin doing that, and also put a piece in the local newspaper, the Bend Bulletin. I think all of the trash is hauled out of the South Pole station, but I could request someone there to put it where it would become part of the permanent structure. This might be a very small start on the Earth Ark, but I can do it.
If I departed now, what would I leave? The Earth Ark strategy. Next week the real thing.