All Commentary
Saturday, September 1, 1973

A Weary Distance

Mr. Demers is a vocational counselor in Veneta, Oregon.

The man with the hoe slowly straightened his arched back. Taking the straw hat from his head, he wiped away the beads of sweat from his forehead with the back of his dusty hand. Slowly he moved out of the heat of the sun into the shade of a great maple tree growing between his garden fence and a country road. As he stood in the comforting cool, surveying the lush, green, orderly rows of his garden, a neighbor, driving by, pulled up close to the fence and also took note of the neat, and abundantly fruitful garden. He turned to the man in the cool shade and nodding his head with fine approval toward the garden, he said with profound authority: “Yes sir, a mighty fine garden, you sure are a lucky man!” The gardener replaced his straw hat, lifted his hoe, and with a singular, “Yup!” moved back out into the hot sun as the dust from the departing auto drifted over the green crops.

Because he was the man with the hoe, he had long since learned that it is futile to respond to such a comment; ’tis better to quietly return to that which he knows is more than “luck.”

Webster refers to lucky as: “happening by chance.” The neighbor’s observation and subsequent statement are representative of a dangerous half-truth so prevalent these days. Perhaps he knows what many know who have no particular acquaintance with gardening: that the weather, the helpful or harmful climate, is pretty much beyond man’s control. Therefore, when he notices verdant crops, neat, orderly rows, abundant healthy growth, all representative of a bountiful harvest, he seizes upon this “element of chance” and utters his half-truth. The most important factor, which he has failed to grasp, has to do with the knowledge, industry, and application the gardener must put forth, and without which, good or bad weather notwithstanding, the crop would be a failure.

Orestes A. Brownson, in The American Republic in 1866, said the same thing, but in a little different way which broadens the perspective:

Conception is always easier than its realization, and between the design and its execution there is always a weary distance.

Remaining with the garden a little longer — little effort is expended as the garden is planned by the warm hearth during the cold winter months which precede the new birth of spring. But then the plot must be laid out, the soil fertilized and tilled, the seed sown and carefully watered, the weeds pulled again and again, before the plan for the garden moves toward fulfillment. Meanwhile, time and energy, know-how and tender care, and patience have come to represent “a weary distance.”

What does “a weary distance” mean? It means an extended period of time during which there has been an exhaustive expenditure of vigor, endurance, and freshness, an intensive acquisition and application of know-how, and a diligent exercise of responsibility.

Leaving behind now the garden green, and considering in greater depth what makes “a weary distance,” it is easy to see that here lies, seldom used and rusting away, a most successful formula.

Despite this age of flip marriage and frequent divorce it seems appropriate to seriously consider a more compatible marriage between “conception” (a general idea) and “realization” (the real accomplishment), between the idea man — the stem-winder — and the fellow who “gets the job done.”

Instead of continued subscription to expediency, and obeisance to the false notion of the “easy way”, there needs to be a recommitment to the full assumption of responsibility, which inevitably means some element of sacrifice blended with just plain hard work. Continued infatuation with “chance” and “wishing will make it so” will mean continued failures.

The present harvest of unchecked inflation, which is robbing everyone — most shamefully the very young and the very old — is the direct result of the refusal to take the route of “a weary distance.” It is in this regard, that, as a people, we need a baptism of common honesty.