Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Quote du jour/The Old Farmer's Almanac

But the days are short now, and we must make the most of them so as to have some time left for reading and study.
The Old Farmer's Almanac
December 1885

I don't often express my own thoughts when I post a quote du jour. I usually just let the words speak for themselves. But I can't resist writing a bit about this one. You can't read a magazine or an online article on the Christmas season without hearing about the stress of shopping, decorating, baking. Each one offers ways to take shortcuts to give us more time. 'Don't try to do too much' the articles say. The reader gets advice on 'how to make a simpler Christmastime.' When did all this madness begin? I don't remember my mother running around, harried and cranky. I remember Johnny Mathis on the stereo and the beautiful tree. I remember the fir boughs and lights on the front porch. Maybe people didn't used to buy so much? This whole Black Friday thing feels like shopping gluttony to me, especially when it begins on Thanksgiving Night. What happened to sitting around with the family and friends relaxing?

With all the business and busyness of these days between Thanksgiving and Christmas, can you imagine anyone taking time for 'reading and study??' I sure can't. And The Old Farmer's Almanac didn't say a word about the bustle of the season; just that the days are short. You notice also that the quote doesn't say anything about the evening. That's when many people read now. Our days are way too busy to pick up a book at say, three o'clock in the afternoon. We would think we were being lazy.

I'm not a person who has a lot of nostalgia for the 'old days.' There was as much good and bad then as now, I truly believe. But reading these few words really got me thinking and wondering if maybe we aren't missing something very important. We need time in our days to read and study. Quiet time without machines, without other people, without noise. No matter where we live, we can put on some soft Christmas music and just sit. Sit with a good book. Maybe even study a history book or a biography or a guide to wildflowers. What a difference it could make in the whole world if each one of us gave ourselves the gift of a little time each day 'for reading and study.'


  1. Oh! I SO agree. Spending guilt-free hours with a book, some classical or Christmas music in the background, and a candle or two, cup of coffee or tea optional ... This is bliss! (It doesn't matter what time of day for me.)

  2. Oh, you are so right! The Christmas frenzy these days seems crazy to me, it starts so early and there's such pressure on everyone to buy. The busyness seems to start with childhood, these days, with never a moment between organised activities. When I think of the time we spent as children just mooching about happily...I certainly plan to have some time for reading and reflection, this Christmas, and maybe study. This is a very timely reminder.

  3. I'm with you completely; I couldn't get through my days without reading a bit. It keeps me going and doing things that need to be done, including getting ready for Christmas! Happy Holidays! Annie

  4. I love my mom's stories from her youth (early 40s) and how growing up, businesses were not open on Sundays. On Election Days, there were parades and no one went to work, they took the day to vote and it was allowed! Commerce was NOT going 24/7. The holidays were about family, tradition and enjoying the season.

    I wish I could have experienced those times, even for just a brief moment. While there is no such thing as a 'simpler time', especially then as WWII was still happening, I like to think about a time when people cared about their neighbors, appreciated what they did have.

  5. Dear Nan, believe it or not, but I am one of those people who indeed have said "no" to stress years ago, and the weeks leading up to Christmas are not busier than any other time during the year, just different. Of course, it is easy for me, as I have my mum and a close family friend who make the cookies, and there is nobody I have to take care of except for myself and the cat, so I can well afford to have "lazy" afternoons with reading, writing and playing, and my flat is small and empty enough to be thoroughly clean in two hours.
    I have gained so much quality in life when years ago I made a very simple sentence my own, originally told me by who was then my boss: "What will happen if I don't do it?"
    What will happen if I do not join the "rush", the pre-Christmas-craze on the high street and in the shopping mall? My friends and family will still love me, my wallet will stay in better shape, so why do it? :-)
    It is not as if I am not buying presents or putting up some deco, but everything at my own pace and only for those I really feel like giving a present to.
    So, your quote du jour really sees me nodding!

  6. I like to count my "reading blogs" as my time to read. Here it is 2pm and I am finished with the "have tos" of this day. It feels good too. I am with you in that people need more time to relax. There wouldn't be as many angry people if there was more time to relax with family.

  7. Donna - Avon Musings....December 7, 2010 at 2:12:00 PM EST

    Well said Nan. I heartily agree.

  8. Your post just made me draw a deep, quiet, relaxing breath. Thankyou!

  9. Interesting and timely post, Nan. I'm not stressed this Christmas and rarely am anyway. This year most of the presents have been bought and wrapped - 8 young grandchildren means I spread the cost by buying early. We'll be 17 for Christmas dinner this year but that doesn't worry me either, particularly as my son will cook this year and he's a fabulous cook. Shopping for the big meal isn't really stressful either if you take it calmly. As my birthday is Christmas Eve, our celebrations start on the 24th with a big Chinese takeaway which is my birthday 'party'.

    Christmas morning will start with 3 of the little ones who will actually be staying over, (the others will be half a mile away), as they wake up to their stockings, so it will be magic all the way!

  10. I hear you, Nan. I'm taking time off work these next few weeks and people there ask me if I'm catching up with my Christmas gift shopping, party going or decorating. I'm a little embarrased to tell them I'm going home to read, take a nap, or enjoy a movie while sitting admiring my Christmas tree. I like Christmas that has some carols, egg nog, a simple but special meal, and gifts for the little children from Santa.

  11. I can't resist responding to this, Nan. I'm newly retired and am constantly asked "What are you doing with your time?" Living a slower life, going to yoga, taking my grandson to swimming lessons and babysitting him, spending time reading, thinking or puzzling, playing bridge with the ladies at the retirement home and other "non-productive" activities aren't seen as "real" pursuits suitable for a former professional woman in their eyes. They seem to expect me to be out volunteering and serving on committees and being a busy bee. While I do some volunteering, I don't want to go back to the hustle, bustle, and stress of the job; I love my simpler life.


  12. A nice quote and lovely interpretation -- I am happy to have your thoughts on any of your well-chosen quotes du jour!

    The reading in the middle of the day thing is thought-provoking. I still have to fight the guilty conscience and feeling that I'm wasting time when I do that (not necessarily just at the Holiday Season). And I've been retired for 10+ years, with all the time in the world. Now I have to analyze why. I was brought up to love books and we've both always read, so I have no idea at all where that feeling comes from.

  13. Sounds perfect, Rebecca!

    Frenzy is just the word, Geranium Cat. And I do fear that children never have a minute to do nothing, to be bored, to make up their own things to do. That's when a lot of childhood reading used to happen - when there wasn't 'anything to do.'

    Annie Joy, reading really does give one energy, like exercise for the brain.

    Kittie Flyn, thank you for sharing your mom's stories. It is amazing to think of- stores closed on Sundays. Now the main Sunday activity is going shopping, not just at Christmastime but all year. How much can one person really buy/own?

    Librarian, you've found the answer! Really, it should be fun, not hassle. I think credit cards are what made a lot of the change. It used to be that people had to save up for Christmas shopping. Now they charge, and pay for it the whole next year - with interest. Yuck.

    Lisa, I think you're right. Anger often comes from the frustration of not having enough time to do all the things one sets out to accomplish. We do not have to do everything. It's freeing to acknowledge that.

    Donna, I was so impressed when I read the quote in my Farmer's Almanac calendar.

    Katherine, that's wonderful.

    You are so welcome, Ernestine.

    Nicola, your post was as lovely as one of your short stories. A tale of wonder! Thank you, and an early happy birthday! What a great Christmas Eve celebration!

    Anonymous, this was wonderful to read. I love it - you've found the secret! No embarrassment allowed. ;<)

    Teri!! So, so happy you left a note! I think you have a perfect life. It is a gift in this world to not be part of the rush, the everyday going here and there; must do this and this. Sometimes I think people keep going because they're afraid what will happen if they stop and look at how they live. Even people with jobs have choices about how to use their at home time.

    Sallie, I think we all have that inner voice telling us we 'should' accomplish something. We must fight it and know that inner accomplishments in terms of thinking and learning are equal to more visible forms, like cleaning the house. :<)

    Nickie, thank you.

  14. Oh, do I ever love that! Thank you for sharing a reflective meditation which so speaks to me.
    Your words are always so well-expressed.
    Thank you from another kindred spirit,

  15. dearest nan,
    thank you for this, i am going to post a link on facebook because it is said so well. i really enjoy reading you!

  16. Joanne, Kathie, and Splendid,
    The words really jumped out at me from my desk calendar. I couldn't believe the date, and how no one would say that now. They might say relax with tea and maybe a book, but no one says the word 'study' outside of a school environment, I fear.

  17. Let's start a new movement. What shall we call it? It should be an acrostic, of course. How about SLOW for Smart Ladies of Wisdom, or CUSP for Calm, Unhurried, Slow, and Peaceful. I like that one best. We're on the edge; the cusp. We're a sharp point in our modern society showing the way to a better life.

    I'm in! What sayeth ya'll?

  18. Debbie, that is inspired! I love both of them.


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