In Praise Of Slowness

By | July 9, 2014

Originally published as a column in the AM News on Friday, July 4, 2014.

Slow...We were on a mission to get a couple of laneway wild poppies, my youngest son and I. We were inspired by one of the vendors at Art in the Park on Canada Day. In case you missed it, make sure you go next year. It’s not something you should be OK with missing out on…

We have always pressed wildflowers and used them for various art projects but this would be a step up, where the whole plant minus the roots gets pressed and mounted in a frame, as we saw at the fair. Talk about slowing down time.

It was 11am or so, and we were to cross Columbia Street. We stood on the sidewalk by the crossing, my son’s small hand in mine and we waited. Three rushed cars later, we were still waiting. I dared to put a foot on the wide white stripe. Open Sesame?

A fourth car stopped, screech included. A thank-you wave did not melt the driver’s face into a smile. He was in a rush and that crossing was clearly not a happy addition.

We crossed and walked a few blocks to get the two lone poppies. They were just about ready to drop their petals, which will only make it better in the final display.

We made our way back, talking about wild plants and how they grow, with no one to take care of them. Then we talked about fruit trees, why you need to graft them and how long it takes for them to bear fruit. We saw cherry trees loaded with fruit, cherries on the ground and bugs giving in to their sweetness.

On a back street life slows down and there many bits of life to see; our slow steps matched the rhythm of it.

Crossing Columbia Street reminded us what fast is, again. Even residential streets become fast lanes occasionally, which makes both walking and cycling with or without children a challenge many times. Rushed can turn dangerous in a split second; I’ve seen it happen enough times to fear it.

Why rush? Life pushes us into the fast lane occasionally, or often. Yet no matter how often that happens, slow can still be fit in there somewhere.

In fact many things cannot be done in rushed manner or else they come out wrong. Learning takes times, growing food takes time, reading to a child better take time, creating or building anything that is to be durable and worthwhile takes time.

Slow is not robbing us of time but rather gifting us time.

Rushing has become a religion of some sort. We put rushed and busy together and we feel accomplished. Truth is, sometimes we do, and sometimes we don’t. There should be room for both.

If you are an adult today you had the benefit of being born in a world that was likely less rushed than the one today. Children nowadays eat on the go, they get dressed on the go, they get to be driven places because there are many places to go for so many activities and so days tumble, one after another, year after year.

But they need slowness. That’s how they come out. The first walks I took with the boys were the epitome of slowness. Picking up leaves, rocks, staring at how rain drops made puddles jiggle, listening to bird songs, everything was taken in.

Most children rarely get the luxury of slow times these days. Time to get to know the world and make it worthwhile.

But summer is here. Children and summer are a good mix when it comes to discovering slowness. That includes getting bored. When they do, creativity kicks in.

With no agenda, they will discover a world of wonder where scheduled activity stops. Free playing for example. How many of your summers were spent playing whatever crossed your mind and having the time of your life, dirty from head to toe and never ready to stop?

In the age of restlessness and plunging attention spans, allowing children to experience slow times is a gift.

Celebrate slow times. As much as your work commitments allow you to, keep in the slow lanes. Encourage your children to know the pace of life as it is outside what we make it out to be.  Slowness makes room for deep conversations, and when we spend it with children, they get the worthiest gift of all: time with us.

So why not start with this summer?

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