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Thursday, April 25, 2002

If I waste the second half of my life in a completely different way from how I wasted the first half, doesn't that mean that the first half wasn't entirely wasted after all? Or, to put it another way, as long as I'm making different mistakes, couldn't I just keep making them and call it "learning" or "experience" or some other nonjudgmental abstraction?

I'm talking of course about gardening. It's one thing to fumble my way through the job I've been doing for half my life, and quite another to strap on the gloves and get down with the weeds.

In the case of my job, I've learned over the years how to do it with the least possible exertion. You have to know what the minimum acceptable result is, and then expend as little effort as possible to get to that point. I do half as much work as I did fifteen years ago to get twice as much done. And I make three times as much money, but it goes half as far.

This afternoon as I was out in the yard filling the container so I could take it to the curb, I felt very good about not knowing what I was doing. Having lived here for a year and a half now, I've learned a few things. One is that no matter how much work I do to get the yard in shape, by spring it'll grow wild again and I'll have another chance to start over.

Another thing I've learned is that any progress is real progress. However long I work and however much I do, it's worthwhile — if I think I know what I'm doing or if I realize I haven't a clue. It's all there. I can always see a result, and that's the only criterion for success. Cluelessness is actually a bonus, because the less you know about what you're doing, the less demanding you can be in the details.

So I plan to spend the second half of my life, starting, now, making different mistakes and learning from them. I doubt I can make enough mistakes so that the third half will be perfect. To give myself a shot I'll have to be bolder and less hesitant to take chances. That's one lesson from the first half that'll make the second half better.


It took me twenty minutes of clearing out weeds before I could even tell this iris was blooming.

It's not only yard work that this applies to. I have to remember to water the indoor plants, too, or they'll keep dying the way they always have.

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