An inheritance, Part One

YeatsI think of death and it reminds me to consider how to live.  I contemplate the brevity of a lifespan and know that choices are important. I am not ready to die, nor possibly will ever feel so, but I am ready to consider what I want to pass on.

As Hamlet replies to Polonius , when questioned on what the matter is that he is reading …’Words, words, words.’

Language is the river we swim in daily, the route to communication, miscommunication, love and hatred. It is paradoxically the most powerful of medium and the least effective.

There is a radio programme on a Saturday morning that delivers inheritance tracks – those pieces of music that the particular contributor wants most to pass down to their loved ones – in  a similar manner I give you my inheritance tracks – written ones.

I begin with Margaret Atwood, a writer who always has something of note to say and always with style. I love her novels, but this is a short poem that for me describes the atmosphere of a new relationship perfectly.

Habitation — Margaret Atwood

[1939–current, Canadian]

Marriage is not 

a house or even a tent 

it is before that, and colder: 

The edge of the forest, the edge 

of the desert 

the unpainted stairs

at the back where we squat 

outside, eating popcorn 

where painfully and with wonder 

at having survived even 

this far 

we are learning to make fire

Source: Atwood, M 1970, Procedures for Underground, Little, Brown.

The line  ‘it is before that, and colder:’  has the perfection of a musical note precisely measured – with just the right element of surprise to quicken the curiosity.

I chose this poem because the five boys that I have the privilege of loving – two my own sons, three from my husbands first marriage, are all embarking on long term relationships. It is this fundamental relationship with a partner that has been the central impetus to my own life – I am introverted and have little need for a wide circle of friendship, but without the anchor of a committed loving relationship I feel adrift and anxious. And I like fire.

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2 thoughts on “An inheritance, Part One

  1. DK Fennell

    I too have long thought about what I would “pass on” as you put it. The one advantage to wasting so much time on something I have have no experience of is that I came to this conclusion: Perhaps great statesmen or great artists can chose what they want ot pass on. They after all have a large audience to cater to. Having children and watching them grow up has concretized the my own thinking. For specific people rather than an imagined grand audience we have no ability to “pass on” anything. We can give but it is up to them to take. I can no more expect them to cherish my collection of novels, rather than make a yard sale of them, than I can expect them to think well of me. And much as I hate to admit it, slowly over time jsut everything about me will be forgotten by these specific people. What concerns me now is what it is that will be last forgotten. That, it seems to me, the only legacy, and the one that requires so much effort on my part. The last thing forgotten, I think, is the essence of a person. So to me, it has come far to late in life, what I should be doing is make my essence something I want these specific people to retain as long as possible. Is that too egocentric? Is it unattainable?

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    1. Deborah Anne Corr

      It is a challenge to face our own inevitable ‘forgetability’. I too want my loved ones to value my ‘essence’ and for it to be of solace to them. That surely is what love strives for? I lost my beloved uncle when I was 11 – he has been a constant and vigilant presence in my life – a sort of guiding presence when I have needed one. If I could attain the level of presence in the lives of my sons I would be a happy soul.

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