Friday, December 5, 2008

Then and Now

When I was a teenager in the mid 1950s my father often made me work in the garden.  In the early spring I would turn the dirt in the little (about 40’ by 40’) plot using only a shovel, a rake, and a hoe.  It usually took me most of a day to accomplish.  That is, it took me that long if I did it to my father’s exacting standards of not leaving any clods greater than one inch diameter.  If I did it using my standards, i.e., a casual observer could see that a shovel had been near most of the area, then it took only about four hours.

I remember working on very nice day here in Tennessee.  The maximum temperature was about 88 degrees and the humidity was an unusually low 50%.  In the full sun the temperature probably was nearer to 98 but it was still a nice day for the middle of July.  I spent a good part of the morning manually cultivating my garden.  The power tiller was nearby but it was much more satisfying and quiet to use my little hand powered cultivator with either a five pronged scratcher or a weed blade attached and an old fashioned hoe to finish.  When I had finished the entire 16,000+ square feet of garden I was thoroughly soaked.  The weeds and grass were all gone, at least to my eye.

Fifty years ago I had to be semi-forced to work in a garden.  Now I do it of my own free choice.  I wonder, “What has changed to make that occur?”  

Often I observe my professional friends riding on ultra lightweight bicycles in their riding shorts and streamlined helmets.  I have asked many of them two questions and gotten what I considered to be confusing answers. 

Question #1--“Why do you ride a bicycle?”

Answer # 1--“To get exercise.”

“Question #2--“Why is your bicycle ultra light and why is your helmet streamlined?”

Answer # 2--“ “To minimize my efforts.”

If the purpose of riding is to get exercise (i.e., expend energy) then why is the desire to minimize the effort with which it is done important?  Maybe I have been an engineer too long.  Or just maybe these two examples have the same answer.

Pride of accomplishment is important.  But accomplishment must be related to a desired goal.  In my garden work my goal is primarily to expend energy so that I don’t let my aged frame deteriorate too far.  My secondary goal is to have a neat garden.  My cycling friends probably have a primary goal of competing (in terms of everything from stamina to quality of dress) with their cycling companions and only a secondary goal of getting exercise.

Is there a lesson in this?  I heard Billy Graham’s daughter say that her father always said, “It is not possible to know the motive of someone else no matter what they do.”   If I applied that to all my interpersonal relations I would probably be a better person.  What do you think?


At December 5, 2008 at 10:10 PM , Blogger John Inman said...

It's true, the times have changed and usually right before our eyes.

At December 6, 2008 at 8:34 AM , Anonymous colin said...

Glen, I work my little garden to get the fresh tomatoes and okra which costs $2 to $3 a pound at the markets nowadays (in season). For me, I don't think it has much to do with the exercise. It's just that I can't stand to pay that much for what was so plentiful when I was a kid. colin

At December 6, 2008 at 12:27 PM , Blogger Bill Hinds said...

Yup, you sound like an engineer Glen. :)
It has been a long time since I have exercised for the sake of ezercise. I just don't have much stamina since I went through kemo/radiation treatments and that has been over 5 years ago, mercy!
I cut firewood and do a small garden. I love fresh vegetables.
PS-Its snowing here now, it is about 26 deg or so, we are susposed to have a high today of 28!

At December 6, 2008 at 2:29 PM , Anonymous Pat Burroughs said...

Hey Glen!

No wonder your back wore out. I'm sure anyone can tell by looking at my not-so-svelt figure that I despise exercise just for the sake of exercise. I have no aversion to hard work that is accomplishing something, but the idea of exercising just to exercise apalls (sp?) me. I think of all the work I could be accomplishing with that much expenditure of energy. Keep on trucking--and pass the tomatoes, please.


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