Coming out of the winding corridor of tall trees and rocky slopes, we drive out into open, green hillsides. A family of cows with wet black noses and full bellies watches us, patiently. ‘It’s a working farm,’ Julie, my host explains. ‘’That’s what Arthur wanted.’
She’s referring to Arthur Boyd, the Australian artist who lived on this gorgeous property, and then gifted it to be used by artists as a place for seclusion and inspiration. I’m ridiculously fortunate to be spending a week here, writing a play. And with no TV, little internet and few books (as well as an incredibly peaceful environment), I’m sure I’ll have no trouble finding the time to write.
This generous act of Boyd’s (and his wife, Yvonne) has got me thinking about how some people are so blessed in life that they are able to make these sorts of tangible contributions after they pass away. Things like scholarships, or donations, or setting up trusts for others. How wonderful it must be to feel that you can leave something behind, and in choosing who/ what to leave it to, you are making incredible statements about what you value. And perhaps, what you feel should be valued more by others.
Inside my cottage where I am expected to write (this will totally happen, I will definitely write a play…) there is a little shelf. The shelf holds a broad, intriguing selection of books - old, plastic covered library books, fluorescent young adult novels, books in German, Chinese poetry, maps of Sydney. This isn’t one person’s personal library. I’m pretty sure that these are books that have deliberately been left behind. Possibly writers who have stayed here before me have left a copy of their own novels, hoping that the next writer will read it. Similarly, most of the artworks on the walls appear to have been created in the last decade, and all reference Bundanon, the property I’m at. These people, too, are all leaving something behind for others to enjoy.
(Ok, this is not entirely relevant, but I just went to the bathroom and there was a frog in there the size of a matchbox car. There was a brief, silent stand-off, before we decided that the cottage was big enough for the both of us. I just needed to include that.)
After thinking about these people leaving things behind, bequeathing their property to others, I realised that I had had similar feelings, though not always so altruistic. Although I would love someday to be able to leave something of value to others, the feeling that most often concerns me is a need to leave something behind to prove that I have existed. I’m here to write (yup, a play - I’ll totally get on to that soon), because I want to write. Because I seem to always have ideas for things that I want to write, and even though writing can often be boring and painful and embarrassing, I keep coming back to it. However, I know that one of the primary reasons that I write is because I’m terrified I’ll die one day and there will be no record of me at all on this whole planet. Trust me, I know this is not a Boyd-style ‘bequeathing property to help others’ sort of thing, this is totally a Sam Hill ego exercise.
I’m okay with this at the moment. I’m okay with writing because it makes me feel better, and maybe it’s not offering much more to the world than that. But what I really do hope, is that one day I can leave something really valuable to the world after I pass away. It might not be my writing, or any other creative activity. It might be that million dollars I’m totally going to win on a scratchie that I donate to struggling schools.
Or it could just be a simple story, a feeling, or some words that I pass on to my (future) children or to my friends. That’s just as valuable, right?
What about you? Do you ever think about what you may pass on to others?