Volume 51, Number 1
You read it right. This is the first column of Year 51 of these renderings. Time marches on.
I had been intending for some time to hang up my trowel (pen) at the end of 50 years of Garden Path. That is, 50 years between my Granny Williams and me. That figures to be 2,600 columns, give or take two or three more for leap years, etc. We, the two of us, have never missed a deadline in all those years, which might be a record for a weekly newspaper column of any kind, not just concerning gardening.
When she picked up her Parker fountain pen 50 years ago, at age 75, to write her first column of “Down the Garden Path” as it was then, I am sure she never dreamed it would still be printed in her beloved Paris Post-Intelligencer half a century (what a thought) later. She continued with the column for 16 years, when macular degeneration, which runs in her family, struck and lack of eyesight caused her to lay down her pen and prevail on a grandson of hers to take over. This grandson, who had grown up fishing and hunting, had, by then, morphed into ornamental gardening as a pastime and, with fearful trepidation, agreed to take up the mantle.
Tempus fugit indeed. This is not my swan song. Ugly duckling song, maybe.
Yes, time flies. But what, anyway, is time? Just try to define it. Webster takes up the better part of a page in a fruitless explanation, with the usual claptrap as measuring time by astronomical reckoning, as per the revolution of the earth around the sun, etc. But what about the eons before there was an earth or a sun? What was time then, when no such benchmarks were existing? The truth of the matter is time is immortal and we can only reckon time as it applies to us, now in the 21st century. My late, great friend, James Cox, who was a genius, had the best definition of time as we know it that I have ever heard. “Time, as we know it,” he quoth, “ is simply a scheme somebody made up to keep everything from happening all at once.” Well, time, as you and I know it, just keeps going down the river, never to return.
So, here we are, Sept. 5, A.D. 2018, and I sit at a computer (of all things) desperately trying to make some sense of what I am attempting to get across.
In a nutshell, I am going to keep on keeping on. Even with the (so far relatively mild) infirmities that inevitably accompany a lot of years, I yet have residual interest in gardening, certainly enough to spur me into researching the ever burgeoning new varieties of plants coming on the market. Then too, the numbers of friends I have made through our common interest are a valuable treasure and one which I can rely on for a lot of information that some of you might not be privy to. I like to pass that on from time to time, as well as ideas from the wellspring of technique and lore that I have soaked up in more than 50 years of plying my avocation.
What of time? James Cox said it (see above) and Henry Austin Dobson ventured this: “Time goes you say? Ah, no, alas, time stays, we go.”
See you next week, and the next … and the next … and the next …
JIMMY WILLIAMS is the garden writer for The Post-Intelligencer, where he can be contacted on Mondays at 642-1162.