If I Knew the Future

If I had known that this fall in Denver was going to be one of prolonged warmth, I might have approached my fall gardening differently. I might have planted more perennials and assumed they would have plenty of time to root before winter arrived. I did some fall planting in September, but I kept assuming that next week the weather will be more seasonal, and then next week, and then next week …

Since I don’t know the future, much of my decision-making in the garden is based on averages and experience. I can remember the year it snowed in early September, and now I have lived through the year when it was warm all the way to November. The average first frosts and first snows are also part of my calculation. We have actually had a couple of frosts this fall, but the microclimate on the south wall of my brick house means that my tomato plant is still producing cherry tomatoes. Averages and experience are part of the practice of gardening, but they are not everything.

If I knew the future, would I act differently?

red-vine-fenceThe act of gardening assumes first of all that there is a future. Very little of the benefit of planting flowers (or shrubs or trees) is in the short-term. Sure, annuals are beautiful in the season they were planted, and then they die. But even annuals are prettiest a couple of months after they have been planted, when the flowers have filled in. So the very act of gardening is an act of faith that there is a future.

Since I don’t know the future, gardening means taking risks. I might plant a flower the day before a hail storm – or a freeze. Or I might not. But if I don’t plant the flower, if I don’t take the risk, then I am stuck in a life without flowers.

My husband and I have updated some of our retirement planning recently. Just like gardening, we can analyze averages and experience, but we don’t know the future, and life is full of risks. Initially our financial planner had age 90 in the model for end of life … hmm, what to choose? We actually don’t get to choose and we don’t know the future. But just in our immediate family, our parents, we have age at death of 58, 64, 72, 97. Better pick something past 90 for the model.

And then we plant (and invest) – even if we don’t know the future – we don’t know if we will live to see the flower. Because gardening, and life, is an act of faith.

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