Our close friends, who have retired in Spain, came back this summer to sell the home they had lived in for 30 years. Needless to say, 30 years of sifting through accumulated memories and purging possessions no longer needed is no small feat and there were many times they were caught up in old photos and items that had sentimental value but ultimately had to be let go. They gifted us with a magnificent wooden mask carved with a chain saw by a very talented, local Native American artist. The mask, the head of a strong, introspective, meditative, and peaceful Indian Chief, had watched the changing seasons across the bay that their home faced for decades. He gazed southward, noting the ebb and flow of the bay, the beach activity surrounding it, the boats heading and returning from the Sound, the light of the sky in all of its many colors. Now he faces giant Himalayan and Alaskan cedar trees, an apple tree , several rhododendrons and a robust laurel hedge as he gazes north from our garden.
George Harrison’s soulful song, All Things Must Pass, (take a listen here )is one that often goes through my mind these days as we say farewell to friends and icons alike. Sometimes the passage of time and experience passes almost without notice and other times it passes with the impact of a huge event (pandemic, anyone?). I often look at my wonderful children, adults now, my son soon becoming a parent himself and I wonder where that time has flown. I have photos and momentos but their childhood has passed into my memories.
Last week the world lost a giant spirit of change, a pioneer, a warrior and an icon, with the passing of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She was a tiny, powerhouse of a woman who spoke truth to power with a soft but firm voice. My daughter called to tell me, simply saying “Ruth died. I wanted to tell you first.” This was a woman who inspired me in so many ways just by her quiet, persistent example. She became an unlikely cultural icon, inspiring girls and boys with her strength, her logical arguments and her unexpected wit and humor. In the wonderful documentary about her life, simply titled RBG (if you haven’t yet seen it, I highly recommend watching the trailer here ), I was struck by the courage it must have taken, in arguing her very first case, to stand before 9 Supreme Court Justices, all men, and present the argument for gender equality. She won that case and it would not be the last one she did.
I often wonder, what scared her? She always seemed so poised and assured. And then I realized, everything did. The walls she knocked down were high and firmly established in our society. Yet, she never stopped. She didn’t waver, her voice never quailed in the face of such opposition. The was a lot of wisdom, and no small amount of mischief, behind those twinkling eyes. She was a force to be reckoned with and she worked for what she believed to the end, despite fighting a debilitating disease and the limitations of an aging body.
My heart is sore for her loss to this world but I am also grateful for the trail that she blazed. For fighting for the many rights that I, as a woman, take for granted and yet, unbelievably, were not yet in place even during the transformative 1960s. Every generation can claim a hero, a trailblazer, one who has moved humanity higher up the ladder of justice and fairness. She has passed but her fight continues, leaving her legacy to the younger generation to pick up her gavel and pound the change into this world. What RBG taught us in no uncertain terms is that we have a voice and the right to claim our place in the world. She fought for both women and men. We can tell our daughters and our sons about the woman who inspired us in life and will continue to do so in death. It is true that all things must pass. It’s what we leave behind that counts.
The eyes of the Indian Chief gaze northward from its perch on the back of our home. I can feel the winds of the season adjust in temperature and strength, bidding summer farewell as we pass the Equinox. Winds of change, both natural, metaphorical, spiritual and philosophical, fly past his gaze. We are at a crossroads at this moment. Hello, goodbye. Or better still; fare thee well. In the sadness of the day, I know all things must pass, and I have the hope that our wonderful memories will sustain us into the unknown future. The trailblazers have forged the path and we honor them by following it and making it bigger and better and easier for those following behind us. Ruth would expect nothing less.