So, who will know us after we’re gone?
Did you have a magnificent home in the suburbs: garages and manicured lawns, a tiled driveway? Were your carpets made from golden fleece, were your cabinets hand cut and finished with clever mosaics or fine stain? Did you have a telephone in the bathroom, a television screwed into the door of your refrigerator, did your ice machine turn out ice in different shapes? And did everyone know you in your neighborhood, the house on the hill, looking out over the rolling hills of the fellows around you?
I’m afraid we have very little in common. The numbers of your castle are the signs that divide us. You have guns (well, so do I), your airplanes take you far beyond the footsteps of (what you think) are the common man.
Your children define the rights of young people who are destined for achievement. My children will be spoken for by the pundits who will praise them for how many steps up the ladder they climb.
Now I’m not denigrating your children, nor am I praising mine. This afternoon I was thumbing through one of those newsprint magazine kinds of things, filled cover to cover with beautiful homes waiting to be taken up by people with living dreams. And I know you: you sell your mega mansions in places like Seattle or Portland, in Chicago or LA. That’s when the big money comes in, as fat as a piece of chocolate cake. You get maybe $800,000 — down there — and pay $400,000 — up here — for a house that has everything you wanted to find, including beach-front property and $400,000 profit And you live on the $400,000 until Social Security kicks in.
I kind of resent my dwindling fantasy of living on the beach, of traipsing through the woods on a natural trail, of being turned away by the fences of your backyard.
Can you imagine, a beach that commends itself as being one of the longest in the world? Miles measured by the dozen, seagulls and cormorants and pelicans, all kinds of birds, by the thousands. A brilliant panorama every time we open our eyes. And guess what? You and I — we get to share it all, inches and feet bits and pieces, in big chunks and handfuls, it’s all ours, just as long as we practice our manners and remember that the rules of nature are different here than in the big city, more careful, more pronounced. How in history do we get so much in exchange? Are we that much smarter? Do we make better choices, or are we luckier?
So, who will know us after we’re gone?
Will you bless this earth with a yard filled with flowers? Will you keep a treat — bread or a carrot or something, I don’t know — nearby the door for the times your four-legged friends come by?
One day I had a squirrel tapping at my front room window. And I don’t think he wanted to come in to see how I lived as much as he wanted me to come out to see how he lived. One time, a couple of deer came by just to lounge like tourists working on a tan.
I never rail against the rain because the rain cleanses the air and makes things green and healthy. The blue sky paints the air with a color rich enough to reach towards Heaven. The clouds are a sculpture garden; the (occasional) snow makes me think of Christmas, the swing dance of sunshine and the waltz of moonlight — fill my heart with the joy of music under the stars. And who cannot be thrilled with the occasional bear (no, I am not afraid of bears), by the elk and the eagles. I saw a wild turkey once and killer whales several times and young people beneath the trees and children shoveling sand in their pails. I see older people kindle their love with holding hands and staring into each other’s eyes.
Ah, we are never too old for love.
So who will know me by the things I do and the company I keep? Who will stop me from giving a dollar to a woman and her children who have no money and I do? Who will volunteer? Who will teach? Who will learn?
Who will be reminded that hope is our birthright, that a good dream is a vacation of the heart? Who will remember that many, many, many people are lonely?
And who will know us after we’re gone?