Let us begin

Fall is the time to plant bulbs and prepare for a beautiful spring lawn! Keukenhof, the Netherlands, April 2007

Fall is the time to plant bulbs and prepare for a beautiful spring lawn!
Keukenhof, the Netherlands, April 2007

“All this will not be finished in the first one hundred days. Nor will it be finished in the first one thousand days . . .nor even perhaps in our lifetime on this planet. But let us begin.” John F. Kennedy

One thing that bothers me most about contemporary culture is our collective impatience to see everything done quickly.  There are quite a few things we can mass-produce rather than lovingly craft, and “that takes too much time” is a common indictment of all sorts of bygone skills and nearly forgotten ways of life.

But some things cannot be rushed, and some things require advance planning and organization.  An elaborate holiday feast for family, a handmade gift for a special friend, the training of a new puppy or kitten; all take time that yields a rich return for our patience.

Don’t you love colorful spring flowers?  Now is the time to plant some bulbs!  The first year I planted a lot of daffodils, I was irritated with myself for buying so many bulbs in my enthusiasm.  In the chilly fall I dug and dug until my hands were sore, but now, nearly ten years later, I still enjoy seeing my favorite flowers in the very early spring.  Some of them have spread beyond the initial planting.  It took time, but it was worth it.

A lovely lawn or garden; a well-behaved child; a uniquely hand-crafted furnishing or decoration — all these and more will make the world more beautiful for all of us.  It’s hard work, and we won’t see the results immediately…but let us begin!

26 Comments

  1. HarryS

    “The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now.”

    My mother, now deceased, had a very old Buckeye tree in her yard and we all loved the harvest of buckeyes in the late fall of every year which we got if we got there before the squirrels.
    About a dozen years ago I was able to dig up a seedling from this tree and nurture it until it is now a well-established juvenile Buckeye tree about 2 feet high.
    I don’t know what it will ever become.
    I believe it will bear fruit.
    I probably won’t live to see it.
    That’s not the point!
    All the time it brings joy!

    “My heart is glad, my heart is high
    With sudden ecstasy;
    I have given back, before I die,
    Some thanks for every lovely tree
    That dead men grew for me.”

    V.H. Friedlaender

    • What a lovely poem and a perfect story to go with it. I think it is great that you have been able to start a seedling from your mother’s tree. My parents have shrubs in their yard that come from long-ago plants. It’s a beautiful reminder that the things we do on earth live on after we are gone.

  2. “Once begun is half done.” is one of my favorite quotes. But I must admit I am bad about just the getting started part and usually because I feel I don’t have the time or the energy to see whatever it is through to the finish. For me that is true of everything from gardening to cleaning out a drawer. I do believe the world is in a hurry and I have been guilty of rushing parts of my life. Now I try to let life takes it course because the finish is the goal.

    • Amy, I am exactly the same way. I would not have gotten through graduate school if I hadn’t caught onto the practice of telling myself I would work on something (a paper, annotated bibliography, presentation or other intimidating project) for 15 minutes, and after that I could quit. Almost always, once I would get started, I would go on to work for hours and sometimes even finish something, but the hard part was getting started. Telling myself I could quit after 15 minutes really worked for me.

  3. How true! We’ve been in our house for nearly 9 years, and are still doing landscape work…but every step makes quite a difference.

    • One of the hardest aspects of being a military family is that we spent only 3 years in most locations, and never more than 4 or 5. I had to learn to get satisfaction out of leaving things better than we found them, for someone else to enjoy. Whether it was ridding the back yard of the clover that covered half of it when we moved in (central coast of CA) or growing a lovely hedge of hibiscus that went all around our back yard, and gave us flowers and privacy (Hawaii) or convincing the base housing office to replace our ugly green linoleum floor with something less dated (also in Hawaii), it was wonderful to know that whoever moved in after us would enjoy a home that was more attractive – and it also helped us sell homes quickly even in depressed markets. But I’m so glad we hung on to our York home. Our homes truly grow up with us, and every step does make a difference, short term and long.

  4. Roger

    I know what you are saying and totally agree with your blog comments, Julia…but I gotta also say that sometimes there is beauty in Chaos (good things being left undone so that better things can be taken care of). You’ve encouraged me both ways through what you write on your blog.

    • Thanks Roger, I wasn’t even aware you were reading, it’s nice to see you here! I don’t think of the sort of discretion you mention as chaos, though it can sometimes leave chaos in its wake (or appear to others as chaos). I think when intention is there, planning becomes an ally to allow us the freedom to prioritize unscheduled time. For example, if one is in a position to be continually interrupted to put out big and little fires (as I am, and as I suspect you are too, maybe even more so :-)) one learns to leave a HUGE “buffer zone” for these unforeseen things that seem to expand to take all the time we allow them. I guess the secret lies in having certain absolutes– and these will be different for each person– that we do each day or week or year, NO MATTER WHAT. BTW, I have a book you might enjoy, but you can read positive and negative reviews of it first and get the idea of what it’s about. Let me know if you want to borrow it. I found it somewhat therapeutic since I’m pretty messy myself, and have always known that most of us whose offices/craft rooms/lives appear chaotic to others, often have a hidden order in the mess that is not obvious to others. Or so I tell myself, until I lose something for the 487th time in one week…

      • Roger

        Wow, you were right. The comments and ratings were all over the place on that book. Sure, I would like to borrow the book, but you need to know I am a slow reader. Does it have pictures? Pictures always help me to finish a book…one less page to read…know what I mean. 🙂

        • Nope Roger, no pictures! But my memory of it is that it has lots of divided sections, easy to read a bit at a time. I too am a slow reader, and have books I borrowed literally years ago (but I remind my lending friends that I realize I still have it, and ask if they are in a hurry to get it back!) Next time we’re in York, I’ll look for it and try to remember to bring it to you. I thought the reviews were interesting in that people seemed to react to the book based on where they already were…the messies probably loved it, and the neatniks turned up their noses!

  5. merry

    I enjoy flowers…thanks for the picture.~/

    • You’re welcome, Merry – I’m so happy you like it!

  6. Sheila

    Julia, I hope you don’t mind going to the workplace with me. 🙂 I know that you like camping at Willow Tree and our walks on the beach….. you told me so! When I shared your photograph and quote with Stephanie and our technician,Carla, I opened up quite a discussion. Carla, originally from Montana, said tulip fields at Glacier Park are breathtaking. I can only imagine! I hope all is well there, my friend.

    • Hi Sheila, I love going to the workplace with you. I imagine the flowers at Glacier Park are similar to those in Canada; absolutely gorgeous. It must be something about the cold weather. Things were very relaxed and pleasant today; no appointments and no lab work. Matt’s pre-op physical is tomorrow, so I’ll be driving into DC, always exciting given the confusing traffic, throngs of pedestrians, and now, “bandit cams” all over the place. The District raises more millions every year with these cameras which will get you for speeding, running a light, or even stopping over the white line! I’m a nervous driver to begin with, so I wish there was a metro stop near Matt’s hospital! Oh well, at least I’m getting used to it. Jeff has been feeling pretty good and that always makes everything better. Tonight at dinner he sneezed and remarked that sneezing was beginning to be less excruciatingly painful than it has been for the past several months. It made me realize how many things we take for granted when we are well. Hope all is well with you too! Tell all your friends at work hello for me.

      • Sheila

        I admire you for being able to navigate that traffic! I hope for you safe travel and that a good day awaits you as well. Hi to Matt!

  7. Thats a great quote by JFK, I’d actually not heard it before. What an engaging man and Bravo to Jackie for being able to stand next to such a star and shine all on her own. My gosh that family has had more than their share of grief.

    Things grow so much slower here I think. It takes forever for trees to mature. We had some very tall spruce trees in our yard at the lake but had been nurturing them for 25 years, you have to be patient don’t you. I’m so lucky to have a wide open schedule, I can take as much time as I need to do projects and I certainly do indulge.

    • Wow, I didn’t realize that trees grow more slowly there, but I wonder if it has to do with the different patterns of sunlight? I would think that over the course of a year it would all equal out (longer days in the summer) but maybe there are other factors involved. There are certain varieties of trees and shrubs that grow amazingly quickly here, but it always seems to me that other people’s trees grow faster – because I’m not watching theirs as closely!

      Jackie was a very interesting person, that’s for sure. Not too long ago I listened to the tapes her daughter released as an audiobook; taped conversations with a close family friend (the author Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.) shortly after JFK was killed. I found them surprising in many respects. I guess I had forgotten how much things have changed since those years. She definitely came across differently than I had always imagined her, but still it was a very interesting audio. Brought back lots of intangible memories of the 60’s, just hearing how people talked and thought back then.

      • Really? Tapes? I haven’t heard them. I bet they were really interesting. I see most movies depicting their days in office and we’ve actually been to the JFK museum in Dallas. Very interesting.

        Re: Trees probably grow much slower because our summer is only 3 months….well two warm months really, June’s just a rainiest..ha

        • You can read more about the tapes here. You could probably check out the audiobook at the local library; that’s what I did. Though there were some rather shocking things (such as the very negative comments about Martin Luther King Jr.) overall I thought the tapes were quite interesting because, to me, she came across as much more human and less iconic. Her vocal accent, for example, sounded much less sophisticated than I had imagined. Her conversation displayed all the “typical” female emotions, rather catty at times, and petty, but also sometimes very practical, candid, sweet and totally smitten with her husband (which would naturally be most obvious so soon after her losing him). In the context of all that came out later about his affairs, one wonders whether she had the slightest idea of what went on.

          • Thanks for the review Julia, I will look for those for sure. I’ve only heard her speak very little in vintage news reports, I had also noticed she sounded very demure and sweet. I hope she was naive to her husbands dalliances, it’s so hurtful to your self-esteem and it takes a strong person to get over it. Unfortunately, my first husband put me thru that test.

            • Yes, I think she was quite a strong lady. Her quiet dignity throughout the ordeal of the funeral, as well as her determination to stay mostly out of the spotlight in her later years, won a lot of admiration, I think. I agree that it would be best if she never knew all that was written about her husband’s affairs. I can think of few things that would be more hurtful. I am proud of you for being able to get past that and be happy again!

              • Awwww, your message warmed my heart, xoK

  8. Mike Bertoglio

    I tried the 15 minute thing, but quit after ten. Oh well.

    • Hee-hee! Maybe you should amend the plan to start with 5 or 10!

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