Out in the middle of our yard is a beautiful, enormous lilac bush. In the spring, it is laden with the most fragrant, plentiful blossoms ever seen. Out in the middle of the ranch on top of a hill, a tad scraggly but still blooming vigorously after decades and maybe a century, is another couple of lilac bushes, the parent bushes of the one in our yard. There is nothing left of the homestead on the hill, just those few ancient lilacs and a patch of irises.
There is just something about old things that tugs at my heart, any old things, but especially those things that connect me to my family’s past and to my heritage (or to my husband’s family and his heritage). Heirlooms, some people might call them, although that might be too lofty a word. Old books. Worn-out hymnals. Old Mason jars. A box of my Grandma’s recipe cards with her scrawling cursive. My Grandpa’s old Merck veterinary manuals and his rifle that he brought back from World War II. Saddles and spurs with a story attached to them. Quilts pieced by hand. Even stretches of fence, miles long, mended dozens and hundreds of times over the decades.
We live in a day and age of the new, where the old isn’t really even talked of. Long-term has been replaced by short-term, both in our looking back and looking ahead. People are so set on living in the moment and sowing their wild oats that they aren’t tending the gardens of their future.
Quality has been replaced by mediocrity and cheap affluence. How many oil lamps and old vases and clocks and well-made furniture survive from previous generations because of the quality of the craftsmanship? But now we live in a day and age of cheap plenty and instant gratification, stuff designed to satisfy for a week and break in a year. People prefer multiple mediocre things to one quality thing that will last for years or decades. People prefer a closet full of cheap clothing to a small handful of well-made clothes. But it isn’t just in the physical realm that this invades, but the relational as well…People seem to prefer their five hundred Facebook friends to having five solid and real relationships that will last.
Tangible has been replaced by digital. The lastingness of hardcover books has been replaced by digital books. The tangibleness of written cards and letters has been replaced by text messages and emails. Physical photographs have been replaced by digital images stored on a phone or computer. Boxes of loved recipe cards with the handwriting of a dozen different women, or cookbooks with worn covers and pages littered with notes and smudges from batter and butter have all been replaced by Pinterest boards of recipes, or a hasty Google search for ideas. Personal Bibles with fingerprints, underlining, and highlighting have been replaced by Bible apps on phones.
What a loss. Truly, what a loss.
I don’t think people now experience the joy of thinking about what sort of “paper trail” they’ll leave behind for the next generation, or if they will even leave one. If your whole life is digital, will you even leave a paper trail? If you indulge in cheap affluence now, will your children or grandchildren have any relics to treasure? I don’t want to be trapped in a lifestyle of convenient plenty, of cheap bounty, of frivolous multiples. I don’t want to see actions today as having no connection to the future, or the past.
I want to do things with a sense of permanence, a sense of joy that washes into the future. It takes intentionality.
Instead of cut flowers that fade in a week, gift someone a potted plant that could flourish for years with the proper care. Instead of annuals, plant perennials. Instead of a Kindle book, go to a used bookstore and find a loved hardcover book and grow your own collection of heirloom literature. Read and old book and savor the smell of it. Write a letter and send it by mail. Dig in the dirt. Plant trees. Cook a real meal. Write down your recipes, and share them with people. Take pictures and print them. Go on a long walk with a friend and just talk, no agenda. Set aside the digital world and live in the real one, the one we can taste and feel and smell and hear.
Take joy in those things that last.