We all want to make a mark – leave some kind of legacy to validate our existence, to say ‘I was here and I mattered’. Though not in the same way as Shelley’s Ozymandias (one of my favourite poems, see below). There’s no place for human hubris in my concept of legacy.
Gardens can be a legacy. Although I’ve never thought of any of my gardens as truly ‘mine’. I understand well my custodial role. The input into any garden of each successive gardener, whether in design, choice of plants or maintaining the essence of the creation, is a collaborative affair, a shifting palette.
I walked on the beach yesterday morning. It was a spectacular autumn day, the kind that fills you to the brim with joy and invites contemplation. As I strolled the tide line I made footprints in the sand and looking back, watched as foamy threads flowed in, then withdrew erasing them, making the sand new again.
Time is like the waves when you think about it; gliding in and out with the ebb and flow of life, erasing the old to make way for the new.
Well all this pondering on the ‘number of our days’ could be depressing but I choose to look at it as a reminder to make our marks count, however ephemeral they may seem.
My garden slapped me down and beat me up last week. An imprudent step on algae covered stones sent me crashing. A trip in the ambulance and the morning in Emergency revealed a fractured rib. The result has been time in the care of my loving family, and flowers and concern from those absent.
Being showered and dressed by one’s young grandchildren (grandson 8 yrs and granddaughter 6 yrs) strips one of any delusions about how ‘well’ one might be ageing. I’ll leave to your imagination gentle reader, the questions and comments from curious young minds about the ravages of time on a body. The worst part was realising that this is a daily reality for many older people, living dependent lives they’d never imagined nor wished for themselves.
The gift in all of this was the mark I believe I was making. Witnessing my vulnerability, the children’s empathy blossomed. A new tenderness that only develops when caring for people you love became apparent as they fetched and carried, helping me upstairs and into bed.
My response mattered. It was leaving a mark on tender young psyches. I tried to make sure it was a good one. I realised that sometimes it involves a gracious allowing of a space for others to make their mark.
There is a thread that runs through the generations. It’s fibre is spun on the spinning wheel of past deeds. Just as a garden must be nurtured to become its best possible incarnation, so the integrity of this thread determines the value of the mark it leaves.
Ozymandias“I met a traveller from an antique land,Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stoneStand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,Tell that its sculptor well those passions readWhich yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;And on the pedestal, these words appear:My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!Nothing beside remains. Round the decayOf that colossal Wreck, boundless and bareThe lone and level sands stretch far away.”