By E. Adam Porter
Editor in Chief, News of Sun City Center
This morning I ordered The Old Farmer’s Almanac. A staple tome in the community where I was raised, I can’t say I’ve seen one of those – outside of Cracker Barrel and once in a ramshackle Appalachian General Store – in upwards of 30 years. Now, in “5 to 10 business days,” USPS will put one in my mailbox. Well, three actually. Because I “ordered today!” I am receiving two additional “classic” versions of what was once the consummate information source for rural America.
These days the topics covered by the Almanac are available on my phone … but with much less humor and depth. Planting schedules, weather reports, lunar cycles, fishing tricks, gardening tips and other assorted Stuff Worth Reading. Sure, you can get that online, but that’s what triggered the purchase in the first place.
I have a weather app on my phone. Basically, it helps me determine sleeve length while making a percentage bet on whether I’ll need an umbrella. But that’s not why every farmer or grower in my hometown had an almanac in his kitchen, or why every farmer’s wife consulted hers before planting her herb garden.
To get that sort of long-term prognostication, you have to Go Ask Google. So, this morning, I did. What I learned is that the same climate event – El Nino – that has kept us relatively hurricane free this summer will likely usher in a colder, wetter winter than we’ve had in a while. Some folks are guessing we could be in for the “Worst El Nino since at least 1997.” Which, for us, likely means we’ll have to wear sleeves and windbreakers for longer than three days at a time this winter. There may even be some snow flurries up in north Florida.
That’s it, though. The internet is just not set up to offer long-term perspective. Everything is immediate and hyper-specific. So, no real help there.
Maybe I’m reaching, but all that hyper-specific “now”ness we are bombarded with in the Information Age seems to have changed how we look at the world. We don’t really see things through the lens of months and seasons. We see Now and Soon. That forced immediacy focuses our internal clocks so tightly, I fear we are losing something special—the patient discipline any Old Farmer accepts as part and parcel to getting the work done. That timeless wisdom is the key to commitment, even in a world where we struggle to put our phones down for fifteen minutes to share a meal with an old friend.
The act of planting seeds combines the crucial life skills of hope and discipline like nothing else in life. You spend days – or weeks or months – working “can see to can’t see” on something that will not yield any visible results for weeks. You won’t be able to actually enjoy the fruits (or vegetables or herbs) of your labor for months. But, if you don’t have the self-discipline to make that leap of faith, you won’t see any results at all.
The best things in life take time to learn and discipline to master. The most accomplished feelings come from time-intensive projects that require skills honed by years of learning how to Do It Right. Unfortunately, those can also be the sorts of projects we tend to put off, letting them get stacked up in some neglected corner of our home, our minds and our hearts. Then, one day, when we hope to enjoy the benefits of those projects, we realize we left them there, unfinished. We cannot harvest, because we never finished planting.
I realize most of you reading this are literally living the fruits of your labors. You worked long and hard to enjoy retirement, and now you are relishing the results of that discipline and investment. But I also wonder, have your finished planting? Are there areas of your life you would love to expand, dusty boxes of wants and wishes waiting to be unpacked and explored? Every month I meet someone or read about someone in Greater Sun City Center who “recently discovered” or “just started” or “waited until retiring before beginning” some new or different hobby or skill or project.
If we want to, all of us can finds things to fill up our days, retired or not. We can Just Do Stuff or actually buckle down and plant something. If we can remember how to think long-term in our Right Now world, that is. With that goal in mind, I bought an Almanac. I may never read the thing cover to cover, but every time I see it, I will be reminded that another season is coming. If I want to find something healthy and growing to enjoy in that season, I have to put the work in today.