In researching what I hope is the next Ellie McDoodle book, I've found tidbits of information that relate to some of the characters. One is this: Some animals live a very long time in captivity. An iguana in Aruba is 41 years old. Blue and Yellow Macaws live to be about 80.
These are people years, not dog years.
This struck me: What sane person would willingly take on an obligation that will last most of his/her life, nurturing a little creature that is totally dependent for food, love and socialization, even knowing the little creature would outlive the owner? How would you plan for its safety after you die?
Who takes over? It reminded me of something that happened 17 years ago: An elderly neighbor lamented to me that she worried not about her own future, but about her little dog. Who would take care of him when she was gone? Would they even find her dog in time to help it, if she keeled over and died at her house, alone? In my youthful idealism, I assured her we'd check on the dog and make sure he found a good home. Two years later we moved away. I sometimes wonder about that dog. I prefer to believe that, since they lived in the townhouses with lots of neighbors very close by, someone noticed when the woman died and someone took in the dog.
My own family adopted a dog after its owner died. It was not an easy adjustment but we figured it was the right thing to do.
So, who would knowingly acquire a pet that will long outlive them?
For that matter, who would lay the first brick in a cathedral, or set in a trust the first dollar for a benevolent foundation, or embark on a painting career in their 80s, knowing they wouldn't be around to see how it all turned out?
And then I thought, it gets even more mundane. Each of us who is a parent has done exactly that, as has every person in history: We start something hoping it's of sufficient value that the next generation will see it through.
We prepare for the future on faith.
I used to worry that the end of the Mayan calendar in 2012 meant the end of the world as well. My husband says maybe it only means the end of Mayan civilization: Maybe an archeological dig will unearth the last of the Mayan culture at that time. Maybe an earthquake will reveal the last lost burial grounds of the Mayan and we might even find we have more in common with them than we thought (calendar aside).
Maybe we'll look back in 2016 and laugh, the same way we laugh at Y2k hysteria.
If people are still having babies and buying Macaws in 2011, that'll be a nice show of faith. :)
As for me, I'll keep building toward a future I won't live to see. I'll keep creating books for generations that don't exist yet -- and I'll somewhat reluctantly keep taking time away from creating books, to nurture the next two generations that do exist right now, my kids and grandkids.
It'll probably always be a struggle to maintain balance, but somehow it'll pay off, eh?