A leafs last days are full of light and color. Across the street from my house, there is an entrance into the local park. The further I journey, the more mystical the park becomes. The almond-brown trees become the towers of the forest, shielding me from the clamour of roaring truck engines, pounding car horns and wailing sirens. They raise their knotted arms ever upwards, as far as my head can lift. The air allures with the smell of raw pine and combs of feathery fresh moss. The beauty of the forest comforts and calms my pulsing heart. I take a seat on a worn out bench and observantly look around. Underneath my feet is a mosaic in every shade of gold, green and brown. The sun steadily declines and a gentle breeze whispers on the back of my neck. The wind puffs harder and suddenly an array of leaves start dancing in the sky like snowflakes on a winter day. I’ve read about leaves like that; how they are a feast of colours feeding the soul as well as the eyes. Eventually, an ominous silence instills the finale of their performance and the finale of their life. After their brilliant show, they have no intention of carpeting the ground, but they do.
In the world we live in today, majority of humans are aware of the obligations we have to the planet and despite that, many of us carry on without care. There are hundreds of growing environmental issues that threaten the existence of humanity and many other species. I no longer think there will be any plants, animals or trees left in this park if we continue living oblivious to our problems. When we hear about starving polar bears or deforestation, we feel sympathetic for a moment and then brush it off our shoulders like it was never there. I admit I do this and part of the problem stems from the new generations of youth today and the times we live in. Over the years, I have tried catching up with awareness campaigns such as Stalking Awareness Month, Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, Glaucoma Awareness Month and hundreds of others, but the list grows inconceivably long and a sense of urgency builds up to at least acknowledge or be aware of these important campaigns.
If the goal is solely to increase knowledge of an issue, then these awareness campaigns do the trick, but is it ever enough to simply know more? In the times we live in, our ethics have changed and so to say, it is enough. New studies at the Federal Office for the Environment have found that “young people are aware of the need to care for and protect the environment but place it low on their list of personal priorities” (Local). We are fully aware of the damage we do as a species and despite that, majority of us remain unmoved and are unwilling to do anything about it, specifically issues that don’t affect ourselves. Myleea D. Hill states ““awareness” has taken the status of a “cure-all,” a sort of “sociological placebo”” (62). We convince ourselves that being conscious of a problem is already more than enough. As a result, the contradiction of being aware, but apathetic or idle is how we choose to live nowadays. The problem remains as to whether we will continue living as two things at once: aware and inactive.
Many people think of rotting leaves as a negative process. What once was a fluffy layer of diverse colors is now crushed by rain into a bland brown layer. Homeowners mistakenly believe this cover of dying plants and leaves is unsightly, or that it may demolish their garden. The truth is rotting, or the more accurate term, decomposition does the opposite. Decomposing leaves release their nutrients into the soil for new foliage next spring and accordingly create a complex, interdependent foundation underground. That is a legacy, as Susan V. Bosak explains, “an interconnection across time, with a need for those who have come before us and a responsibility to those who come after us” (“What is Legacy”). With the ability to pass nutrients into soil, leaves prepare their resources for plants so the whole ecosystem becomes healthier. A leaf leaves behind a legacy; they give their lives not only shape and meaning, but a purpose to help prepare the next spring greenery.
The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) defines legacy as “An amount of money or property left to someone in a will” (Oxford English Dictionary, n. 1.d.). Many misconceptions about legacies revolve around leaving physical inheritances, especially money, when one passes away. This definition highlights a critical problem in life. We start to believe that our legacy, and therefore our personal value, is obtained from money. In spite of that, a legacy is much more than just “money or property” (Oxford English Dictionary, n. 1.d.) or any materialistic possessions, rather Peter Strople argues that a “legacy is not leaving something for people, it is leaving something in people” (qtd. in Bill). Strople is more than correct because a legacy is also about who we are, how we touched people’s lives and what purpose we served that made something good out of ourselves and others.
The act of defining a legacy is what builds the foundation of our purpose and meaning. Our legacies consist of how we live our lives in the present and how people remember us when we are gone. In a way, a legacy helps us universally understand what it means to be human: that we live in a temporary world with a temporary body and we are individuals who can shape our own lives to what each one of us wishes to be. The famous actress and first lady Nancy Reagan says, “You learn something out of everything, and you come to realize more than ever that we’re all here for a certain space of time, and, and then it’s going to be over, and you better make this count” (qtd. in Legacies). Reagan implies that humans often overlook our limited amount of time and energy and encourages us to make worth of what precious time we have left. Leaving a legacy is an important part of our journey, it develops from a life committed to self-reflection and purpose. If the goal is to live forever, then create something that will.
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