There’s nothing like sorting through one’s personal archives to stir up the notion that life’s short and memory shorter. Go through the files of family photos, yes, and there are ghosts staring back at me that I never even knew, let alone can name or place without my mother (perhaps my grandmother or great-) on hand as reference. How many thousands of stories have I ignored or forgotten among only the few handfuls of fading images I keep boxed up in storage, I wonder?
Delve into nothing more exotic than the household files, meaning only to rearrange what’s there more neatly and perhaps cull a few records that are far out of date, and I find I am plunged into a well of information that, even in those records and bills and receipts not older than a year, escape me like ephemeral puffs of ether as I try to grasp what they meant or why they were recorded in the first place. An atomic cloud of ideas and ideals sprays out of the folders that I thought would only hold a few needful numbers, a name or connection I must think I needed at tax time or on my next appointment with the named practitioner. Stories trail out in smoky wisps.
Reach back into the recesses of the cupboard or closet, hoping to simply rearrange my goods for daily use, and I always discover that my tidying has turned archeological, that items long forgotten lurk in the shadows and recall to mind grand plans since erased: a superb meal here, a skirt to hem there, a pint of paint bought specifically for a project that has lain neglected so long that the other parts were used eons ago for something else entirely. My life is a tale of constantly shifting shores, tangents taken and those unnoticed ones that might have led me in a completely different path to who-knows-where.
What is my legacy? I cannot know, other than that it is short and small. My life’s story will disappear in a hiccup about as soon as I shed my human shell. But in the meantime, what adventures can I take? How shall I flesh it out to my own satisfaction? That is the time of relevance to me, not history past or future but my own small window of experience. Shall I forget the stuff of my life long-shelved, my ancestors, the wide unfolding scenes of history and space? Oh, no, never by choice. But what will shape my happiness the most is none of that, is rather my living in this moment, possibly with a tidier cabinet here and there or a better sorted box of memories to visit from time to time, yet always with an eye toward the light, toward the rising and setting of the sun. Day in, day out, forever.
Life is astoundingly brief and runs away apace. But grasping the essence and ecstasy of any day need not be gigantic in its way, only enough to fill an undemanding heart with some small measure of contentment that might overflow, only enough in turn, to run out toward another heart or two.