Lately, I’ve been thinking about what remains after all our hard work, our love, and our energy runs out. Legacy seems too grand a word for what I mean. I associate legacy with people who endure and influence beyond the scope of a simple life, whether they deserve it or not. People with fame and fortune, people with power. But what remains when books go unpublished or unread? What remains when songs are unfinished and gardens are left untended?
Some would say it’s surely the love we gave and the lives we shared that matter most. Our relationships are what endure and carry our memories forward. That’s a comforting idea for me, and it resonates deeply most of the time.
But I also wonder about the scraps of our lives. Particularly the creative bits. The stories and songs and poems that were abandoned in one way or another. The sketches we never shared. The projects of one kind or another that never came to fruition.
Do they matter at all? Is there any point in work that will not last? These are philosophical questions that plenty of brilliant minds have examined, but it’s been a long time since I’ve had the focus and stamina to read academic texts. Life as a teacher, then as a parent/artist, then as a parent/artist in a pandemic has left me distracted and disoriented. I read precious few minutes of the day. I never study. I wouldn’t claim to have any clear opinion on the purpose of art or artistic work.
Instead, I walk my little beach as often as I can. I watch the skies turn from the rich, cheerful blues of September to the diffuse greys and golds of October. Here in November, I search for breaks in the heavy cloud cover, but I rarely find them. The sun is a memory of herself. The world is tired. I am too.
I find, scattered and broken on the sand, the remnants of other lives. Small, quiet pieces that, whatever their origins, now offer up a touch of color, a shimmer of iridescence, or a soothing texture.
Sometimes I hold them. Sometimes I take a picture.
Sometimes I fall in love and can barely bring myself to let them go, but I do.
They don’t belong to me. They don’t belong anywhere or to anyone.
They’re pointless and purposeless and exquisite.
Whether or not they endure is immaterial.
Sending love to you all. May it go easy with you and your loved ones. xo