People like to talk about things like their "legacy" or what they will leave behind when they are gone. They mention how they will be remembered and how they will "live on" in their children and grandchildren. I admire this. I got to thinking about it this morning as I was lying in bed staring up at the beautiful, black and white photos of milkweed that my dad took and developed when I was a baby. (There IS a connection here, I promise.)
Recently I was reading a book with a series of essays by women and all of the issues that women have in today's American culture and society. One thing I noticed is that they all, every one of them, had or expected to have children. This is not only acceptable, it is the Norm. What Is Done. I squirmed a little, knowing that the explanations I have given for why I not only don't have any of these offspring, but why I truly don't want any, are not getting any easier.
I get Looks from people. I get the puzzled, sympathetic, the disgusted. I get the attempted explanations that are meant to excuse me for my abnormal behavior and choices. Even a dearest friend has tried explaining this anomaly in a way that puts me in a nicer, though slightly screwed up, light.
I find myself thinking about legacies because in this book, several women mentioned how they will live on in their children. That their DNA will continue in their grandchildren and how important this feels to them.
This morning, gazing up at the pure, silk-white seeds of the milkweed in my dad's photographs, I thought, "Now THAT is beautiful." Nature makes me so very happy and content. Truly; not because it's a label someone stuck on my forehead, and not because it's one of the popular and accepted niches to which I could belong, but because it feels like everything important to me. It resonates, pounds, whispers, and drifts through every fiber of me. It will go on. It strikes me as the only Perfection I have ever witnessed. What I plant and what I grow will continue, even after I am gone. If my body itself can be composted and give back to the earth, then I will live on.
But I don't even feel the need for "living on" in anything other than a memory. I would rather my life be the brief and amazing thing that it is, and know that the Earth will continue and will live, whether I am here to see it or pass it on or not.
This feels true. It isn't the Earth you see in satellite photos or Disney movies, or the Earth on coffee mugs and t-shirts. It's the dirt in my driveway, the trees where I grew up rambling around in the maple woods, the rocks along Lake Superior, the purple irises in my garden, the tomatoes from my parents' garden, the dune grass and Lake Michigan. The rolling hills of the farm on Pettis drive, and the young horses on the corner of old 131 and Hersey road. It's the earth that sings like a cicada or a spring peeper. The earth that collects 4 feet of snow in shimmering layers, and the earth that grows the whispering grasses of our field. The earth that produces amazing looking stones and which balances all ecosystems except the human one, perfectly.
So, somehow, this is part of the explanation to those sympathetic looks I get. I'm really happy; content, not incomplete, or rather, incomplete, but not in that way. I feel like I have it all, even on my worst days.
I do not feel the need to live on in anyone. Maybe some day I will. Right now, I hope that Nature can live on in me.