Inheritance

Hellebore from out back

It is April 8, 2020, and my family is on week four of sheltering in place. One of the primary things keeping me afloat these days is the fact that I can step outside into the yard or garden and remember that not everything is complete shit.

I hesitate even to mention my beloved outdoor space because so many of the people to whom I am closest and that I love very deeply do not have the luxury (and yes, it is a luxury) of safely going outside right now. I am talking specifically about my friends and family in NYC who are stuck inside their apartments, managing kids, partners, or going it all alone. I am so blown away by your fortitude, and I admire you beyond words.

Here at my new-ish home (my family and I moved to the Hudson Valley from Queens fifteen months ago), things are starting to bloom. The forsythia has burst open in the yellow-est yellow, the peach blossoms have started to unfurl their pink, and the cherries are on the brink of explosion. The daffodils have already peaked, and the hyacinths are sending out their other-worldly perfume. In short, nature is just…doing its thing. Even while everything else seems to be falling apart.

I cannot describe how incredibly comforted I am by all of this impossibly dazzling yet utterly mundane “business as usual” of spring.

I am also reminded of how indebted I am to the previous owner of our home who planted so many beautiful things of which my family and I are now the beneficiaries. We inherited a rich and beautiful legacy from her that she nurtured, planned, and cultivated over the decades she made this her home. I hope she knows that the love, effort, and time she poured into everything she planted is now wrapping our family up, cradling us in just the way that we need.

Whether we want to or not, all of us are constantly participating in generating the legacy of our own time. The seeds we plant today (literally and metaphorically) will affect those who come after us, for better and for worse. Legacy is an inescapable continuum upon which we all exist in dynamic and shifting ways, and it is somehow both sad and comforting to acknowledge that we most likely will never even know the extent of how our own legacy reaches others in the future.

I wonder what the legacies of this strange and particular time will yield. No doubt they will be varied: some beautiful, some horrific; some creative, and some destructive. But maybe just acknowledging that we are always in the process of generating our own legacies, as well as inheriting those that came before us, is enough for the time being.

For all my loved ones stuck inside, I can already tell you that one of the fruits of your legacy will be resilience. It will be other things as well for sure, but from the perspective of this lucky duck who gets to step out into nature when I feel the crushing weight of despair, all of you are heroes of the highest order. I love you, and I can’t wait to play outside with you when all of this is done and dusted.

I have inherited so much in my life that it is staggering. It is also humbling. I only hope that whatever legacy I manage to leave is half as rich as the ones I have benefited from. My family, my friends, my teachers, my students, my ancestors and predecessors of every stripe: I feel you holding me now more than ever, even through the distance mandated by this sad, strange time. Your legacy sustains me.

Tulips on the brink of opening

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