“If you wou’d not be forgotten
As soon as you are dead and rotten,
Either write things worth reading,
or do things worth the writing.”
Write Something Worth Reading
I don’t remember when I first heard that Ben Franklin quote, but I think it was probably in high school because I remember feeling like it Spoke To Me On a Deeper Level.
Either write something beautiful and brilliant (not like this blog) or live a life that is as interesting and varied as a story. Something someone would want to read about after you’re gone from this earth. The sort of thing novels are made of.
To simplify: either be a pirate or write about pirates.
Luckily as an adult, I do acknowledge that there are other ways to contribute meaningfully to society (piracy is no longer required) and that maybe not being forgotten is not the highest pursuit of human life. Despite that, that little snatch of Poor Richard’s Almanac has remained with me long after I first read it.
For many years I thought I knew which side of the equation I came down on. I was a writer and it would be my words, not my life, with which I would leave my mark on this world. I would live a quiet life, a comfortable one. I would stay inside safe from sun and wind to dream up and record brave lives that were worth the writing. I was a chronicler, nothing more.
Who would ever want to read about someone like me?
Live Something Worth Writing
It was about when I met my husband that I started thinking I might have been wrong about all of this. He was about as close to a pirate as I was going to meet and I remember feeling as he told me story after story of his adventures fishing and in the wilderness of Alaska that his life was worth writing–a big life–and that I wanted to be a part of it.
And when I was deciding to marry him, I thought not only about whether I loved him but also about what kind of life I would have with him. I could say ‘no,’ stay where I was and tread the ordinary path I already saw laid out below my feet, leading straight and well-lit to a clearly marked destination. Or…
Or I could jump the fence, run for the horizon with all my books in a rucksack on my back, meet my lover at the crossroads, and set out for those purple mountains in the distance and whatever mysterious land lay beyond.
I could, perhaps, have both.
Both my words and my writing as well as a big interesting life. One full of real danger and adventure and risk and hope and big challenges and long Lord of the Rings-like journeys.
And sea otters.
The ubiquity of sea otters was a big selling point.
I try to think about this whenever I’m afraid–afraid of being alone, afraid of the leap to the dock over dark water, afraid of the future and what has yet to happen. I like to remind myself that I made this choice because this–this life full of scary challenging things–was actually what I wanted. I didn’t want just to be the chronicler, but I wanted to have something to chronicle.
I still want that.
All of this as roundabout way of saying that Nic and I are in the process of packing up our house so we can drive our boat up the Inside Passage and across the Gulf of Alaska to Kodiak for the salmon season.
I’m terrified, but I can’t wait.