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How Many Summers Are Left?

We are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it… Life is long if you know how to use it.
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I reckon I have forty summers left.

I love growing my own food. There is nothing quite like picking fresh produce, walking inside, and then sitting down to a great meal twenty minutes later. I have been living in my current home for about eight years. It has taken me until the last 3 or 4 to handle, how to deal with its individual characteristics.

It’s not an easy garden to grow vegetables or anything else for that matter. I have shade from my neighbour’s trees that allow for almost no morning sun. My old farmer friends call it the growing sun. As the sun swings across the sky, I pick up sunlight in some parts of the garden around mid-morning, only to be shaded by yet another tree until early afternoon where the crops are left to fend in the baking afternoon sun. And this is in peak growing times. In Winter as the sun drifts further and further north (I live in the Southern Hemisphere) for the most part, much of the garden is in the shade. I must get the timing right for planting and take extra care on the hot days as my seedlings are likely to fry. A few weeks out and I can miss a good crop, a plant can sit there and do nothing for months, or sometimes no crop at all.

I have derived great pleasure from seeing how to overcome the problems and take advantage of the opportunity that exists.

There is a challenging part of the garden, which I found myself looking at this summer. It only gets baking afternoon sun. It gets a lot of shade all Winter and receives a lot of water runoff from an overhanging roof, which can drown a seedling before it may wither and die in the afternoon sun. It’s a tricky spot.

As I stood there, I became aware of a real sense of urgency to get it right. It had dawned on me that even if I stayed in my current home for the balance of my life, I at best had only forty summers to work some magic. Forty winters, Forty springs, and Forty Autumns of harvest.  Given my age and the fact that most of my relatives had lived longer than average lives. I had a good chance for forty more. But forty is not very many and not very long.

Now for you, it may be different. You may have more or less. If you are 25 with good genes, you might have 60 summers left. If your older, well… you can do the math. There is really not many opportunities to experience summer.

Not many opportunities to feel the summer sun on your back. The sight of a blue-banded bee, the smell of cut grass, the disturbing sound of a mosquito at night, or the touch of a loved one. Time is short; there are only so many summers and seasons to experience. There are only so many times we can encounter the smell of rain on dry wheat fields after a summer thunderstorm.

Only so many times…

We are not given a short life, but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it… Life is long if you know how to use it.

Seneca

Lucius Annaeus Seneca , A man who should know. This essay was written in the back part of his life, perhaps lamenting some wasted time with Nero and questionable outcomes. Written nearly 2000 years ago, it is evident that the human condition has changed very little. We all still ask the same big questions and lament time and life wasted.

So what can we do to increase our knowledge so we can say –

“My Life has been long because I have learnt how to use it.”

Here are a few suggestions, and you may come up with some others of your own.

  • Take time out to understand what you are working with what genes, circumstances, who you are; if we use my garden again as an example. I spent a lot of time just sitting and observing the garden before I did anything. I wanted to understand it; The best locations for specific plants. Understanding the soil and what support it would need to provide the right growing conditions. I looked for its weaknesses and the areas of potential strength. What plants would and would not grow in the resources with which I had to work.
  • Take time out to understand who you are. What strengths and weaknesses you have. Your genetic makeup will give you unique opportunities and discount others. So too, with your environment.
  • Actively seek input for all sources. Our family and friends can be useful, or a hindrance, and sometimes a little of both. Get professional help. Don’t wait for a crisis to seek mental, emotional and spiritual support. Do it early when it’s not needed. Proactively use those professional services to understand and move life forward. Actively seek out professions who specialize in self-development and understand the human condition. Build a team of people from whom you seek advice. Think of yourself as the “Producer of Your Own Life”, or the owner of a major sports team. Look to bring experts from a range of areas. They will be used at different times to help you become your best.
  • Have a go! Be Flexible. Be prepared to attempt things that seem to be of interest to you but be flexible to move quickly away from them if there is no real development or joy to be found. Take up an exercise that increases your physical flexibility. A flexible body is a flexible mind.
  • Meditate – it slows down the brain and allows it to “see” more. By “seeing” more we experience more of life.
  • Take time out to feel life to observe its wonders. Delight in the smallest things; It is to easy to let things pass by without experiencing them.
  • Take care of your health, apart from potentially living longer, and each day will be fuller. There will be more to enjoy. Seek professional help.
  • Don’t fall into the trap of comparisons. Someone’s outer world is not necessarily their inner one.
  • Life is to short to live other peoples dreams. Don’t let the world around you define your life. By taking the time to understand ourselves, we will seek to fulfill our own individual destinies.
  • Read.
  • Take five minutes out every day to experiences your senses. Ask you self ‘What do I see?” “What am I feeling right now?” If you close your eyes “what can you hear”. When you take a bit of food, chew it slowly and ask what flavours can I taste”. Do this often enough the world will become fuller.
  • Spend some time each day, with bare feet on the ground. You’ll be amazed at how good it feels.

How many summers do you have left? There will come a day when it will be the last time you will feel the touch of a sheet as you rise from bed. There will be the last time you will feel a shower’s water on your back, the taste of toothpaste on your tongue. The touch of a parent, friend, or child’s hand on yours. The last time of a sensual kiss. The last time to feel salt spray on your cheek, from a summers beach. There will be the last time, and life will slip out of view.

By savouring each moment, each event, by being more of what we are, we slow down life, and it will be long enough to be at peace with its experience.

There are only so many summers left – don’t wish them away to quickly.

Resources:

Great Ideas: On The Shortness of Life. – Seneca

The Seasons of Life – E. James Rohn.

The Four Hour Work Week – Timothy Ferriss

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Written By Owen Thomas

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