In 2007 I was in Kenmare, County Kerry, Ireland, the day before the Kenmare Hillwalking Festival started. My nieces and I signed up for a 10 kilometer (about 6 mile) hillwalk.
The next day we filled out our registration forms, paid our fee, and climbed on board the school bus. A gentleman in a Kenmare Hillwalking Club hat asked if he could share the bus seat with me. As the bus began to pull away we began to talk…what’s your name, where are you from, how long have you been in Ireland…the normal questions. Then, he asked, what do you think of Ireland?
I told him the things that struck me were the unending shades of green and the fact that there weren’t many trees. The hillsides were almost all grass. He replied that my ancestors (remember, my last name is Carey) came over from England, cut all the trees down, and sent them back over to “Henry” in the 1400s.
My nieces were shrinking down in their seat. I knew they were mentally telling me, “Let it go. Just let it go.” But, I couldn’t.
I smiled and said, “Yeah, but it doesn’t take 600 years to plant trees.” My nieces’ eyes were huge and they may have been holding their breath. He laughed. They exhaled and sat up, a little.
I told him I was doing my best to make up for my ancestor’s past wrong doing and worked for a land trust in Pennsylvania.
While my ancestors’ legacy in Ireland may be pastoral hillsides and trees “exported” to England (by the way, I haven’t researched his claims, so this may not be an historically accurate fact), I hope my legacy is a landscape of farm fields, meadows, forests, wetlands, and creeks. I hope it’s a legacy that produces natural resources for at least the next 600 years. It’s places where people walk, and fish, and hunt, and just sit and think. It’s places that grow food, and flowers, and animals. It’s places that are conserved, and being used.
That’s what I hope my legacy is.
What will your legacy be? August is Legacy month. It’s a great time to start thinking about your legacy.