At what point in your life do you lose the will to be extraordinary?
There was a time when my Uncle Lincoln A. Ward still believed in being extraordinary. But! Somewhere, at some point, he lost the will.
I wonder why? I wonder where?
Since my uncle died just over two weeks ago, his life has been torn up, shredded, thrown out, sold and burned very slowly. His life has been necessarily remembered, celebrated, dissected and forgotten. His extraordinary stories fading as quick as his eyesight.
Over these fast fading weeks I have been inside falling apart bird field guides with detailed notes; an astonishing stamp collection; home study courses in aviation, lapidary, philosophy, share trading and geology; a huge, hand cured crocodile skin and matching skull, more than one set of predatory shark jaws, fishing photos and photos and photos; dozens of photo albums containing (instead of photographs) hand collected samples of native grasses and seeds with corresponding written entries cross referencing native and introduced flora and fauna; an extensive array of crystals, hand-cut gemstones, ancient fossils and artifacts, volcanic and metamorphic rocks; hand-shaped pottery bowls, wall pieces, Australian themed animals and architecture; beautiful oil, watercolour and acrylic paintings and exquisite pen drawings.
In addition to all of this I also burned bank statements from several fishing clubs, environmental groups and committees; all of which he had been actively involved. There were reference books on art, geology, zoology, politics, share trading. Books on farming and animal husbandry sat alongside biographies of inspiring world leaders, art technique and Australian history and folklore.
Even more astonishing were his lengthy journals in simple notebooks containing his personal observations on aviation, stock market patterns and fluctuations, generations of genealogy of British royal family members, and foreign languages including the entire Russian alphabet in exquisite penmanship.
During his life it seems his dedication to personal knowledge was extreme but at what point did it all become insignificant?
Did it begin the day he towed his once adored, white Falcon to the far paddock and discarded it along with his name, hand painted on the side? That old van had taken him into the depths of the Australian outback, along coastal tracks and deep into places about which he possibly never spoke of to another human. Realising it would never see again the landscapes of his beloved Queensland, did he discard it along with his will?
Or did it begin with the end of the his sight? When he could no longer see the stars he had studied so extensively or the birds or the road back to Far-north Queensland.
Did it begin the day his mother rang and called him home to run the farm and following the death of my grandfather. I am not sure if he ever went back to Far-north Queensland. I don’t think he did.
He spent his final years almost completely blind, alone, completely reliant on a walker, sitting in the sun listening to radio or the birds (which he could meticulously identify by sound), drinking beer surrounded by the dust-covered relics of a curious and remarkable life.
And now I am left with this burning, circular question.
At what point did he lose his will to be extraordinary or did any of it ever really matter?