On August 4th, during a wonderful Arts festival, I was asked how I would define myself. Immediately I thought of the things I do. The person who asked stopped me mid-sentence and clarified her question. How would I define who I am inside, not what I do. Well, that seriously stumped me. I still don’t have an answer. I believe I stammered something about being a storyteller. I thought about my love of trees and the forest, but didn’t know how I would put that into words for a definition of who I am.
As some of you already know, later that evening, a local man I know, and his dog, were killed by a hit and run driver. Being a small community, everyone is impacted. Being totally honest, sometimes I liked that old brindle boxer more than I liked his human companion, but no one should be left dying and alone, on a narrow forest road in the middle of the night.
This morning I walked to work. The road has no shoulder, the woods come right up to the edge, and with our rare sunshine, it was a beautiful walk. Until the first car passed me. They were polite, going slow, moved out around me. But still I couldn’t help but imagine the force of impact if they hit me. How it would feel to hit pavement, to be dragged, to be left? There isn’t a whole lot of traffic on this road. I could have been there for a while. As a writer, I wondered how I would describe such a thing and was unsettled by the thought, as if I belittled what he went through.
Further down the road, a memorial has shown up where this man and his dog died. People have been leaving mementos that reminded them of him, or that they knew were important to him. The dog’s brush is there with a package of dog treats. A shed snake skin because the man volunteered at a Reptile Zoo and had great compassion for his charges. An amethyst necklace. A ceramic dragon. A photo of him with his son. Flowers of course. Apples. Candles. A feather that looks like it came from a hawk.
Things that define him to those who cared for him.
So how do you define yourself? What would people who care for you leave in remembrance, leave as reminders of what they saw in you?
Paper and pen. Rocks (I’m always hauling home interesting rocks). A pot with a little tree maybe? Favorite books. Hopefully a bar of Cadbury Dairy Milk chocolate. Garnets for sure. Tiny ones gathered from our river.
It’s a very strange thing to think about and makes me feel uncomfortable, maybe slightly maudlin or self-centered. But do think about it. How do you define yourself? How do you want to be remembered?
I’ve come back to the beginning of this piece, for me anyway.
As a storyteller.