Legacy

by Wolf Pascoe on March 22, 2011

We are stardust.
We are golden.
And we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden. — Joni Mitchell

My college class recently had a reunion. One of those milestone reunions, ending with a zero, as in 100th. I didn’t attend, but regardless, the organizers wanted to hear from everyone about their lives.

For months I stared at a form asking me to produce a few lines about what I remembered of undergraduate days, my work, politics, love and family life, philosophy, or whatever else I thought would interest my classmates. The results were gathered into a small volume which arrived in the mail yesterday.

A

My old roommate, a man whom I had gone to school with since first grade, went to the reunion. A dear friend, he’d badgered me mercilessly to produce something.

“There’s still time,” he kept saying.

I struggled with what was, for me, a prodigious case of writer’s block. I recalled that once, during a lecture I had attended, a professor paused, regarded the class, and tossed out this aside: “You go through here affecting cynicism and nonchalance, and after you leave spend the rest of your lives wallowing in sentimentality about it.”

That didn’t help.

The book is organized by topics. There are a few hundred entries. I didn’t write about anything they suggested, so I was curious where they would put what I gave them.

I’m the epilogue.

Or rather I’m the beginning of the epilogue, as a few others apparently shared my difficulty. Above the paragraph I produced, the editor put, in boldface italic, a solitary word. This is what I wrote:

Legacy

I wasn’t going to send anything, but then I realized my son might find this collection someday, and wish that I were in it. So Nick (just now eight), this is to you.

There is a reckoning in life, not having to do with money, but with time. What did you do with your time? The Buddha said it this way: How well did you love? How fully did you live? How deeply did you learn to let go?

This means that your real wealth is in what you can appreciate.

Some appreciations are God-given, others learned.

Do you speak another language? Do you still speak to trees?

Do you listen to music, play an instrument, still work with wood? Do you love forests, the night sky, the sea? Do you know baseball, San Francisco?

Above all, do you people your life with those you love?

I love these things: Shakespeare, taking a nap, the deep blue mystery of sky. Riding a bike, eating a peach, crafting a sentence. My men’s group. Your mother. You.

I hope I have taught you to love.

. . .

A

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YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY:

This song, two or three hundred years old, always sung by student choirs. The lyric begins, Let us rejoice while we are young. The graphic below is the kind of translation I used to produce in Latin class. There are many filmed versions on the web of young people singing this, but I find the invisible voices haunting. Click the sound button under the graphic to hear the one-minute recording:

[haiku url=”http://justaddfather.com/feathery/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/gaudeamus-igitur.mp3″]

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{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

David Petrie March 22, 2011 at 10:42 am

Wow.

Good thing you didn’t go. Your physical presence might have disappointed some people. ; )

Absolutely beautiful. Makes me glad to be a writer.

Here’s to talking to trees.

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Wolf Pascoe March 22, 2011 at 1:32 pm

David is reflecting about fatherhood for the Huffington Post. Check out his smart, thoughtful writing here.

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kathryn kates March 22, 2011 at 12:01 pm

yeah, big wow. and worth sharing on a grand scale.

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Wolf Pascoe March 22, 2011 at 1:20 pm

From your lips to the big guy’s ear …

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Barbara March 22, 2011 at 12:43 pm

Beautiful! Nick will be proud!

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Wolf Pascoe March 22, 2011 at 1:37 pm

Assuming he gets the reading thing down. But that’s for an upcoming post. 🙂

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Dan March 22, 2011 at 2:19 pm

Few things I can recently recall have rung so plangently, unexpectedly, and — as ashamed as I am to admit — frighteningly as the sentences about reckoning. Thank you for reminding me to ask the important question.

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Wolf Pascoe March 22, 2011 at 3:19 pm

I find it so satisfying whenever I do something plangently. It’s even more satisfying when I can remember what it means.

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Tom March 22, 2011 at 8:15 pm

I loved the entry in your class book because you spoke from the heart in language that was so meaningful to me. I’m so glad your friend badgered you. Otherwise, those beautiful words would have been heard only by you alone.

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Wolf Pascoe March 22, 2011 at 9:03 pm

It’s what friends are for.

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BigLittleWolf March 22, 2011 at 10:25 pm

I’ve read this several times today.

Lovely. Just so lovely.

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Wolf Pascoe March 22, 2011 at 11:25 pm

Bless you.

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nelson RN March 23, 2011 at 7:31 am

Wow. I love this one.

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Wolf Pascoe March 23, 2011 at 3:57 pm

Thanks, Nelson.

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Sirena March 23, 2011 at 2:37 pm

I LOVE your “Legacy”. I think it’s one of the best things you’ve ever written. I hope I’m around when Nick comments on it.

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Wolf Pascoe March 23, 2011 at 3:57 pm

I’ll keep the blog going until then.

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Barbara March 23, 2011 at 8:39 pm

Beautiful. Goose bumps. (And your reply to Dan made me laugh out loud.)

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Wolf Pascoe March 23, 2011 at 9:06 pm

Hmmm. Has anyone listened to the music? Just curious. That gives me goose bumps.

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Jack March 24, 2011 at 12:39 pm

I hope I have taught you to love.
Few lessons are as important.

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Wolf Pascoe March 29, 2011 at 12:41 am

Amen.

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BigLittleWolf August 18, 2011 at 11:34 am

Rereading this post is such a pleasure.

You should be proud, yes.

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Wolf Pascoe August 18, 2011 at 1:07 pm

Proud is such a funny word. But I do like this post. The filmmaker Jean Renoir once said something to the effect that he started out wanting to fix the world, but ended up writing love letters.

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Privilege of Parenting August 20, 2011 at 12:13 am

E.B. White also said that all he ever wanted to do with his writing was to love the world. I find myself reading this post of yours in San Francisco, as one of my sons reads “On The Road” (asking, “…’Frisco’ means San Francisco, right?”) and the other reads “East of Eden.”

On our way back to LA we’ll look at a college—places I can be wistful about before he’s even gotten to nonchalant and cynical.

Lovely post (I was so glad that I could answer yes about talking to trees, since I’ve never been to a reunion it made me feel vaguely successful, or at least validated and, ironically, less alone in my own perpetually misty absence).

All Good Wishes

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Wolf Pascoe August 20, 2011 at 11:27 am

Jen Renoir also said he just wanted to love the world. Are they telling us something? But how? My favorite haiku of Basho is about this:

Avoid adjectives of scale. You will love the world more and desire it less.

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