Wisely, and slow

“The only thing for certain is that everything changes. The rate of change increases. If you want to hang on you better speed up. That is the message of today. It could however be useful to remind everyone that our basic needs never change. The need to be seen and appreciated! It is the need to belong. The need for nearness and care, and for a little love! This is given only through slowness in human relations. In order to master changes, we have to recover slowness, reflection and togetherness. There we will find real renewal.” ~ Guttorm Fløistad on the Slow Movement

When I left my last job to go back to school full-time, I received as a parting gift a beautiful fountain pen. My bosses, bless their hearts, knew about my writing aspirations, and wanted to give me something apropros to encourage me and send me on my way.

I guess they had no way of knowing that I hadn’t used a fountain pen to do any writing since my high school English composition class. Over the years I’d gotten used to tapping out my thoughts on my computer, thinking that writing things out longhand takes—well, too long, that my hand can’t keep up with my brain.

Yesterday I decided to use the pen to write a letter to a friend. It took a few tries on a piece of scrap paper to get the ink flowing properly and to form a few legible letters. Then I began to write…and realized, for perhaps the first time, why my English teacher insisted we use fountain pens in her class, so many years ago.

For once, my fingertips weren’t busily tapping to keep up with my brain. Instead, my brain was decelerating, keeping pace with the ink flowing sweetly but slowly from the silver nib. As I wrote, I had the time to think about what I really wanted to say to my friend, to choose my words, and to form the letters carefully. My handwriting came out differently, and I think maybe my thoughts did too.

It all goes to show that ideas, writing, souls, love—all the important things—improve with time, like wine in barrels. Or delicious, properly aged Cheddar cheese.

I’ve been find myself thinking a lot these days about taking the time to “age” things, to let things come to fruit in their own season, to wait for the real thing instead of settling for less-than-passable substitutes. Like making ice-cream with nothing but cream, eggs, and sugar. Or watching tiny yellow flowers become tomatoes. As I mused some years ago after harvesting some home-grown blueberries, perhaps if we all grew at least some of our own vegetables and fruit, we would learn a lot about patience, the delights of anticipation, and the satisfaction of attaining something that we have worked for, taken care of, and finally gives itself to us in its proper time and due season. What a contrast to instant, empty gratification!

And maybe this patient, nurturing attitude would start to affect other aspects of life. Maybe we’d learn not to make snap decisions, or snap judgements, and instead take the time to think about what we say and do, and let new—and old—friendships grow, nourished by lots of easy laughter and cups of tea.

Tea, according to some proponents of the Slow Movement, is the drink of the slow. I’ll drink to that.

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