These days, many of us live in fast forward – and pay a heavy price for it. Our work, health and relationships suffer. Over-stimulated, over-scheduled and overwrought, we struggle to relax, to enjoy things properly, to spend time with family and friends. The Slow movement offers a lifeline. It is not a Luddite plot to abolish all things modern. You don’t have to shun technology, live in the wilderness or do everything at a snail’s pace. Being “Slow” means living better in the hectic modern world by striking a balance between fast and slow.
That’s a little bit about what In Praise of Slow is all about. I read it a couple of weeks ago in airports, airplanes, and hotel rooms. My favourite moment was curled up in bed in a hotel room that was a throw-back to the seventies, listening to the rain outside my window, and ignoring everything else but my book.
Part way through the day today, I realized that it was indeed a Slow kind of day. There was nothing “over-stimulated, over-scheduled or overwrought” about it. It was just plain old Slow. And it was a delight.
In the book, the author (Carl Honoré) explores several different Slow movements that have popped up around the world. Here’s how my day was a representation of a few of them.
1. Slow Food – The Slow Food movement is all about taking pleasure in the preparation of food, honouring the history of food, enjoying the sharing of food, and using natural local foods as a way of getting closer to the source of our food. Today, I did Slow Food proud. I started my day by making chicken broth out of yesterday’s chicken bones. For lunch, I cooked chicken noodle soup with the leftover chicken and some good old fashioned Mennonite noodles, just like my Grandma used to make. (No, I didn’t make the noodles, like Grandma used to do, but I did buy them from a genuine Mennonite source.) Then I made another large pot of creamy carrot soup with locally grown carrots, and of course, a little ginger. The second pot of soup will end up in the freezer. After the soup was all cooked, I gutted, chopped, cooked, mashed, bagged, and froze 4 pumpkins from my father-in-law’s garden. I even cleaned the pumpkin seeds and laid them out to dry – we’ll roast them another day. We’ll be eating lots of pumpkin pie, muffins, loaf, etc. this winter. Anyone have any good pumpkin recipes? 🙂
2. Slow Cities – No, I don’t live in one of the neighbourhoods Honoré describes in his book, where traffic is slowed down, there’s lots of space for pedestrians, local shops are easily accessible by foot, and houses have front verandas instead of backyard decks. In fact, we live on a fairly busy street. Too busy. But that doesn’t mean we can’t do our part to slow down, stay out of our cars, and value what’s accessible. The girls and I set out on foot twice to local shops. First it was to 7-11 for Slurpees (their favourite drink that they’re only allowed on weekends), then later it was off to the local grocery store for supper ingredients. It’s not the cheapest place around, but it’s locally owned and within walking distance, so I support it whenever I can. I don’t want it to disappear and end up trampled by the long line of megastores that keep popping up.
3. Raising an Unhurried Child – I think my mood wore off on the kids today, because they were pretty relaxed. Julie spent lots of time reading and Maddie spent nearly 2 hours on the floor building lego creatures with her dolly propped up next to her (she’s rather attached to dolly these days – she even made the trips to the stores with dolly on her back.) (Nikki was at a friend’s place.) When I was cleaning out one of the kitchen cupboards, Julie discovered the cookie press we hadn’t used in a long time, and so we made cookies. Flower cookies, star cookies, and cookies that look suspiciously like hotdogs. We took our time, and of course, they got to lick the beaters. 🙂
4. Slow Work – I got lots done today, but I definitely didn’t work at a frenzied pace. I took breaks to make cookies, walk to the store, and help the girls find markers to draw on the big paper I found while cleaning up. I fairly successfully avoided all thoughts of work, and chased the stress away every time it tempted to creep in. Of course, good music always helps the mood, so we cranked a little Jann Arden, Martyn Joseph, and then some Proclaimers to get us going.
6. Mind – Yes, it was a “Slow Thinking” kind of day. No, I didn’t find the time for yoga or meditation, but I stayed away from sources of over-stimulation (eg. television), and let my mind wander as I cooked and cleaned and pressed cookies. I love the places the mind finds to visit when it isn’t pre-occupied with too much work or stimulation. Do you know, for example, how much like a row of gondolas docked along a canal in Venice a row of pumpkin wedges can look?
7. Bodies – Our brains weren’t the only things functioning on slow mode. Our bodies were pretty relaxed too. Even our walk to the store was slow. Julie commented, “Mom, I don’t think we’ve ever walked to the store this slowly before.” 🙂
5. Leisure – At the end of the day, when I could gaze with pride at all that I had done, and all that was ready to go in the freezer, I sat down with a cup of tea in my favourite mug and a couple of cookies. Aaaahhh!
Now it’s almost time to crawl into bed. After the week I’ve had, it will be a treat to lie down with a relaxed mind after a unhurried day. Besides all that cooking, I mustered up the energy to clean out some of our clutter collections (top of the microwave and fridge). Of course, after all that work (even if it WAS slow work), I’m a little tired by now. As much as I enjoyed it, I can’t help but hope that tomorrow is a little slower than Slow.
(Before I go to bed though, I may stop to gaze admiringly upon my handiwork on the freezer shelves. Thanks to Marcel, the freezer is newly clean, so all that pumpkin, soup and chicken stock looks all the better on clutter-free ice-free shelves.)