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Seeing Change

I am in my wicker chair on the balcony on a rare calm, warm afternoon, listening to the recorded guide on the open-top double decker tour bus as it drives past the building. I only catch snippets. What are they telling folks?

I am tracking the afternoon sunlight on the balcony. Are all the planters getting the most sun possible? It looks good except for the peas, which are still in shade at 3pm. I'm concerned by this. The pea shoots are growing, but will they get enough sun to flower and set pods? I might have to swap places with the peas. I'm roasting in my chair already. I'll decide next week.

This idea of iteration is still on my mind. That you need to do things, and then learn and tweak and change, rather than sit and plan and plan some more. Things are not permanent. We continually adapt. Our words and ideas adapt too. That is why I can't abide people who are unable to change their minds. As if everything they know today is all they will ever know and is all that is knowable. Nobody likes a know-it-all.

Gardeners realize this. The seasons change. Shadows shrink and grow. Clouds come and go. That leaf blower next door will stop eventually. It takes patient observation and a thousand small changes to build a garden that works.

I used to own a Gardener's Journal that illustrates this so well. The diary is set up with one day per page, but there is room on the page to record ten years worth of observations. How did the garden look on May 22, 2016? How does it compare to May 22, 2021 or 2023? What trends do you see? Is Spring really late this year or do you simply yearn for it more than usual?

Our stories are no different. They change with each telling. Sometimes I worry about repeating the same story but my audience is different. And besides, I am different with each telling.

I was excited to re-read Bill Bryson's European travel memoir, Neither Here Nor There after a space of at least 10 years. But I did not enjoy it near as much this time. The words didn't change, but my response to them did.

Maybe it was because I've been to Europe myself since reading his book, but I believe that more generally, I am a much different person now.

The book was written in 1991, when Bryson was 40. It recounts a trip he took that year, roughly following the route he took in 1972, when he was a young adult. He noticed a difference, both in the Europe he explored and within himself. I am no different. I was 40 when I first read the book and now I'm 57. The same time has passed between my two readings as between the two tours he describes. How could I possibly receive the stories the same way?

Some things don't change. Values, morals, love. But the way we express them sure does. Keep telling the old stories, knowing they will change to fit how you are today. If you notice a difference, you're noticing your growth. Well done.