Slow Season

Everyone is running and the stores are crammed (didn’t look like a recession driving around yesterday!), people prepping for Thanksgiving and then Christmas craziness.  But our house right now feels calm, whole, and waiting patiently for the tree, the stockings, outdoor lights until after the big Turkey day.  I feel like I can breathe again, slowing down now that football is over, and the soccer schedule has eased up dramatically.  My daughter said our home feels “warm and cozy” this weekend, but she doesn’t know why.  Maybe there is no hecticness in the air.  (yea, I know that is not a word, but it fits)

I love that our family feels like a unit as we begin this holiday season. We can eat together, play games, do a puzzle, help with each other’s schoolwork (mine included), and we seem to have those extra 30 minutes to do waiting projects like hang pictures on the walls, go through drawers, put away the garden equipment or simply watch a film.   

Come December I will probably read this and laugh, rushing to buy a last minute gift or send out three forgotten cards, but I will savor this togetherness and slowing-down time and socializing while I can. C

Relish Your Ink-Free Days

The clock is now running at high speed, hands spinning faster and faster as we hurtle towards the start of school, trying to absorb the ending summer days while working and shopping for school supplies and marking schedules on the calendar and starting practices and buying clothes and STOP! 

Lean back slowly, close your eyes, take a deep breath through your nose while counting one-two-three, exhale through your mouth, and suddenly the clock decelerates to normal speed, frantic thoughts flow in a straight line and some of the extra mental weight simply vanishes.  As we parents consciously strive to Slow the pace down, our children can hopefully follow our paths, frenetic movements disappearing into the haze.

It is not easy in today’s environment to Slow down, take a breath, when everywhere we see HURRY!  NOW!  GO! The thought of falling behind the group is terrifying at first, then acceptable, as we realize that we don’t need to fall out with our friends simply because we say NO sometimes to one more outing or one more label or one more activity.

I have spent this summer physically and mentally trying to Slow down our family, and it is not easy.  But it’s working, and we all seem happier, more relaxed. (see 23 June post for more information on Slowing down)   Two weekends ago, with my daughters just back from camp, we were swimming in our nearby lake, lounging on our huge blow-up raft nicknamed The Island of Doom- the best $60 investment I made last summer–when my older daughter asked me “What else are we doing today?”

“This is it.  This is all I have planned, ” I replied as I watched the clouds dancing across the sky, a cool breeze shimmering over the water.

“OK,” she smiled, diving into the water.  And we hung out on the water and the beach, until the kids were ready to head home to start dinner.

This past weekend we amazingly had our second free consecutive Sunday.  After an early morning grocery run, we spent the day not filing or shopping or cleaning but going on a long bike ride with a picnic, as I wrote about yesterday. 

When given the freedom of an empty calendar, don’t always feel the need to fill it in.  Explore your local area, have a picnic with friends, take your kids shopping, lay in the hammock, work in your gardern, go to the movies, play a game, visit somewhere you have never been or somewhere familiar that you have not seen in awhile.  Do not let the lack of ink on that day scare you-as I think it does some-but embrace your free time.  

I find that the more days we have carved a singular activity out of an ink-free day, the more we crave it.  As our family has become closer and more content this summer, I hope can extend this Slowness into the school year. C

Slowing Down

So many of us move at breakneck pace through life, trying to cram in so much we can’t absorb the smell of lilac or gentle touch of a child or our lover in our frenetic paces. Many of my friends are consciously trying to Slow down,  teaching our families to move slower in the languid summer months to recooperate from the stress-filled school year.  Hopefully some Slow living can still exist into the fall.

Carl Honoré’s book In Praise of Slowness, now four years old, made me think about my life as I read though it. Honore was one of the more entertaining speakers we saw at the Printer’s Row Book Fair earlier this month, (6/8/08 posting), so I read his first book waiting for my local library to have a copy of his new book  Under Pressure available.

Broken into succinct chapters, In Praise of Slowness talks about bringing Slowness into different areas of our lives: cities, education, food, mind/body, work, sex, leisure, and children.  He uses research and stories about how people were able to improve their lives by Slowing down–while not eschewing the technologies that we daily use. 

We already try to incorporate some of his ideas into our daily lives;  one of the most together and focused times we have are the days we can have a family-meal.  We try to do this 4-5 nights at week, and it’s when we talk about our day and discuss the next day’s plans/schedules. It’s much easier during the summer months to do this.

A well-thought out approach to slowing-down many aspects of our lives, he brings anecdotes from people and organizations worldwide to show how speed is impacting all of us.  If we can teach ourselves to Slow down in one area, that Slowness might  flow into other areas of our lives. I personally do not want to Slow down as much as some people in his book, but I have become more aware of my driving speed, our eating habits, and my children’s actitives since reading his book.

I want to ask Honoré if he rides horses.  It’s the natural instinct when approaching a jump in a course to speed up, lean forward, and charge at it, which will only help launch us over the horse’s head.  My trainer has said on number of occasions:  “Wait for it. Wait for it” even while picking up a little pace and “Don’t jump ahead of the horse” as I approach the jump.   My nerves settle and the jump is smooth and comfortable, not hurried and sloppy, so I can concentrate and ride to the next jump.

Whether there truly is a global “movement” to Slow down–though there are certainly organizations that espouse Slowing down– I can’t answer, but I hope to infuse a little Slowness in my family’s existence this summer.  In between work and chauffering and meal preparation and spending time with my kids and reading my book and exercise and writing and taking photos,  I think I can squeeze Slowness in.  (ha) C

6/24: In response to my blog, Carl Honoré had this to say in an email about his link to horses:

Love(d) you blog. I used to ride a bit when I was a child and I remember that feeling of having to slow down to the horse’s rhythm, or at least not try to force it. T(ha)t is one of the nice things about animals – they know their tempo giusto and they’re sticking to it.