“Life is the chance to grow a soul.” ~ A. Powell Davis
This last weekend, I found a most exceptional piece of furniture, although, outwardly, it looks fairly ordinary.
It once held a library of knowledge, referenced by lots of little cards in all it’s 72 drawers. Then, for years, it has been holding nuts, bolts and furniture fittings in the garage of a now-retired carpenter. And now it’s embarking on a new life with me. It is going to keep my life’s work safe. But before I tell you what I have in mind, let me tell you about it’s inspiration.
When I was a little kid, my extended family used to holiday at the shearing sheds of Ningaloo. Friends of my grandparents had the pastoral lease and the shearers accommodation was a collection of corrugated iron shacks nestled into the sand dunes a few steps away from a sheltered bay.
My Nanna, Aunties, Cousins and I all loved going for long walks on the beach. Thanks to the reef just offshore, an astounding number of seashells would wash up on the beach, especially after stormy weather. The high tide would deliver them to our toes, waiting to be collected.
(I should mention, these were the days when you could actually collect shells off the beach. Thanks to conservation, these days you can’t collect a strip of seaweed off the beach without risking a fine from a vigilant ranger. Which is somewhat of a shame. Seaweed is fantastic fertiliser/mulch.)
A lifetime of beach walks amounted to an impressive shell collection. My Nanna displayed the pride of her finds in a Queen Anne style glass cabinet (the kind with the “ballet feet” making the cabinet legs look like they were standing on tippy-toe). The shell collection was good for a few hours of gazing, for the colour, sizes, shapes and sheer diversity of the shells on display. However, Nanna rarely opened the cabinet. Inside, it reeked of dried mollusc meat and low tide.
Even so, it is probably the single most coveted possession of Nanna’s daughters and granddaughters. Frankly, we all want it for ourselves. Now it lives with my Aunty Jo, who would most likely let her house burn down before she let anything happen to it. It’s not just the shells. Every shell in that cabinet caught Nanna’s eye, when she was at her most happy, on those long walks. Each shell passed her hands, carefully carried home, arranged and displayed. It’s so valued because it’s so her.
So when I tell you how excited I am to have collected an old 72 drawer card index file from an old library, maybe it’s starting to make sense.*
After many years of essentially farting around, (and no, I don’t mean having you kids!) I’m certain I’ve finally distilled my life’s passion. I love to grow fruit and vegetables. It has never been boring for me. Its been there all this time under my nose, waiting for me to wake up and smell the brocolli.
So my plan is to fill my new/old cabinet with the most fantastic array of heirloom, open pollenated seeds. It will probably take a lifetime of exploring, cultivating, collecting and nurturing. The irony is, that unlike shells, seeds don’t last forever. This will need to be a living legacy.
With each season that passes, the best performers will be selected and saved for the following seasons. Ultimately I will have a collection that reliably performs to our local conditions and climate. Who knows? It may even be valuable for my future generations to access food that is genetically diverse, GM free. My children can build on it and grow their favorites and my grandchildren can grow theirs. Hopefully, the skill they develop will also serve them well, or at the very least, keep them healthy.
Have you ever inherited a similar legacy? I would love to hear about it.
*No. Not a Wine Rack! Although, as Husband keenly demonstrated, a bottle of wine fits perfectly into the drawers with a little room to wiggle.
PS: The funny thing is, the kids drew a blank when it arrived home. They have no reference point for the musty library-smell, or have ever had to use a card index system at our library. But, my six year old does know how to Google. In the end, I had to explain, “Before Google, when people wanted to know something, they looked through the thousands of cards that lived in the drawers that told them where to find the book in the library.” She said “But that would have taken FOREVER!” Yup kids. That was the 20th century. Incidentally, Granddad still has them convinced that when he was a kid, the world was actually black and white. See kids? The photos prove it!