Living Slow

Sometimes life seems like a full-on sprint. I take a deep breath, as I did on Tuesday afternoon last week, and comfort myself that this is the worst a Tuesday is ever going to get, this school year. Or I have a Saturday like this past weekend, in which nothing was scheduled and consequently I made a list of things I wanted to accomplish that was so long, our whole family working together couldn’t have finished it all. Of course I was grumpy and torn. It was a perfect weather day and we had nothing we had to do. And yet I had myself so tied up, it didn’t even occur to me until I sat down to write a blog post 36 hours later:

Why the bleepety-bleep weren’t we all out on the Katy Trail renting bicycles?

A full-on sprint is supposed to be a brief thing. Bolt only had to hold that pace for nine seconds. I, on the other hand—and a ridiculous number of you who are reading these words—keep treating life like a sprint that hits the 26-mile mark and keeps on trucking.

Image via Pixabay

A week ago, we took our kids to the drive-in theater. This theater is about two and a half miles by road—one mile as the crow flies—from the farm where I grew up. And yet I had never once been there, until last weekend.

We watched Pete’s Dragon, which I found underwhelming. But the moon was setting, a pale silver sliver sandwiched between a charcoal-gray cloud and the privacy fence. A fat yellow star (planet?) hung off its starboard bow. And there, sitting on a really uncomfortable surface of gravel with nothing but a flimsy blanket for padding, and nothing for back support except the dusty bumper of my van (if you’ve never spent any time in the country, you have no idea how dusty the back of a vehicle can get in one trip to town), I found myself entranced by the slow, steady shrinking of the distance between that sickle and the fence. First a stretch, then a brush, then a touch and at last a long, slow swallow, until only a silver tip was left. And the next time I looked, it was gone.

I thought of this again this past Saturday afternoon. I ran errands in the morning…seven stops, an hour and forty-five minutes. I came home with a truckload of cedar mulch. Ate lunch. Measured ingredients for three loaves of bread. Then spent two hours transplanting geraniums and lamium, weeding and mulching four flower beds, and mowing the front and sides of the house.

Then I went inside and started folding laundry while watching Netflix. But I could hear the wind blowing through the sycamore trees outside my window, and I thought, Girl! What are you doing? No one needs you right now, and for your slice of time to yourself you pick FOLDING LAUNDRY?

And so, grumpy with all I was leaving undone, I went outside and sat down in the Adirondack swing beneath the weeping willow, and watched the wind flirt with the treetops for a few minutes.

I love the way every tree has its own voice. Pines sigh, or roar when it’s gusty. Sycamore and oak and maple chatter—sycamore being the sound with the crispiest edges. But my adolescent weeping willow is a soft hiss, like velvet on the ear—and the soul. I turned off my mind and practiced my meditation/being-still-in-the-presence-of-God. I watched the crown of that willow tree fling its head in circles, and I had the oddest sensation that I was actually looking at something sentient. And of course, the sycamore trees danced above us.

And I flashed back to that slow moonset. The way the deliberateness of it, and the pace, so slow I couldn’t even see the movement, put the brakes on my heart, too. How it seemed to lift the pressure to do, do, do, and freed me to be, be, be.

The trees did the same thing.

I love the feeling of being.

It’s hard to achieve sometimes.

Um. Almost all the time.

We need more slow living. We were not meant to rush through this world, never recognizing the beauty all around us. We were meant to work and then rest. We don’t need to fill every moment with noise and distraction, blocking out the world. Sometimes we need to embrace that moment of discomfort, of emptiness, when we pull out the ear buds or turn off the smart phone or leave the piles of laundry. Sometimes we need to acknowledge the things we could be doing, and set them aside in order just to slow down, to stop, even, and just, for a few moments…be.