Like a lot of folks I enjoy gardening. Or, at least I enjoy the end result of gardening: a backyard that is pretty to look at and relaxing to be in. Spending time weeding, watering, and planting is decent physical exercise. As long as I remember to put on enough sun screen it is also a safe activity, even in the Arizona sun.
Over the years my wife and I have changed a plain-Jane backyard with nothing put a few scraggly bushes and lots of grass into a mini oasis. While there is still more I would like to remove, fully 30% of the original lawn has been replaced with flower beds, trees, and bushes. Over time those bushes have been converted to low water, low maintenance plants.
We had a Ramada built, expanded the original porch to add a dining/sitting area, rigged up a small fountain to provide the relaxing sound of falling water, and made sure the view from windows was colorful and engaging. It has been a 10 year process but we are happy with the result. It has become part of my satisfying retirement lifestyle.
One of the steps I have taken every year about this time is to pull out all the winter/spring flowers from about forty pots. Then I replant with something that will survive an Arizona summer. There are a handful of flowering plants that can tolerate 105 degrees for 4 months and still look pretty. Yes, all those pots have to be watered every single day, but I like the idea that the backyard would still be a full of color.
Proving that it is never too late to learn, I stopped before replanting all those pots again last weekend. It occurred to me that Betty and I rarely sit outside from now until late September. It is just too darn hot. We can be on the porch for 30-40 minutes in the early morning to read the paper along with our morning coffee or tea. But, since we no longer get a daily newspaper even that brief period to enjoy all those flowers doesn't exist.
So, why exactly was I going to spend the money on plants, potting soil, and fertilizer? Why was I going to commit myself to at least 30 minutes every day watering those flowers? Why was I going to have to set up a complicated system of timers and tubing to water all the pots while we were out of town on vacations? Why? Because that's what I have done in mid-May for the twenty-six years we have lived in Phoenix. No matter that I don't enjoy spending the money or putting in the effort. I have a schedule and I am following it.
That is, until, I considered the alternative: don't do it. I have the choice to not follow my routine if it no longer fulfills the purpose it once did. I could pull out the spring flowers and leave the pots empty. What a sense of freedom! I felt as if I had discovered a great, new truth: we could go all summer without mindless, purposeless work. Amazing.
The point is quite simple: often we do something one way because we have always done it that way. But, that doesn't make it the only way, even the best way.
From time to time there is tremendous value in reviewing how you live your life or what has become habitual behavior. I would not be surprised if, like me, you discover there are things you do that you really don't like to do anymore. There are ways you structure your day, or seasonal things you have always done that have become a drag on how you chose to live now.
I guess one of the signs that my mind is still functioning at a decent level is my ability to call a halt to the pointless pot planting every summer. I won't dwell on the fact that I probably haven't enjoyed it for the last decade, and instead think about what I am going to plant next fall.