Sunday, July 25, 2010

Delicious, Luxurious Slowness

This week was all about doing things I normally do, but doing them more sloooowly. I did my first try at biking to the co-op with my daughter Cassidy in her bike seat and carried a backpack's worth of groceries home. The next day, she and I rode the eight mile or so round trip to a library in another neighborhood to pick up a movie she really wanted to watch and my sun hat, waiting for me in the lost-and-found. My seven-year-old son was at the new community workshop for kids, Leonardo's Basement, making a wonderful dragon marionette all week. That gave Cassidy and me the time to scout out good bike routes around St. Paul that we might want to share with the whole family.

On our bike rides, Cassidy and I saw things we just don't when we're driving. We saw a community garden we'd never noticed before. We saw a swallowtail butterfly, and a decoration of stampeding horses on a house I've probably passed a hundred times but have never actually seen.

Another bonus: We could exchange smiles with pedestrians crossing the streets and with other bikers waiting for their chance to cross. We passed a woman getting out of her car who smiled at me and said, "You look happy!" Well I bet I did. When I am on my bike, I suspect I strongly resemble a dog sticking her head out of a car window and grinning for all she's worth into the wind.

Another slow thing I tried was hanging out my laundry on a clothesline. It didn't take nearly as long to hang the clothes up as I thought it would, and I actually enjoyed it. Instead of being down in the basement stuffing clothes in the dryer, I was out in the sun, talking to my daughter and watching her run in and out of the billowing sheets, listening to birds sing. It wasn't onerous--it was pleasurable.

"You've never hung out laundry before?" my husband asked, bemused. He is eleven years older than I am, born in the late Fifties in a family of nine kids, and he was so cheap in college and grad school, he once spent a summer sleeping on a friend's porch, paying minimal rent for shower and cooking privileges. He spent years living in a house in Montana with no central heat, just a wood-burning stove. I grew up coddled in the suburbs and didn't live in a house without central AC until I was in college. So my current toe-dipping into simpler living kind of makes him laugh.

I do know that if I always had to hang up my laundry to dry and always had to bike or bus everywhere--if it weren't a choice--it might be harder to enjoy it all so much. I also know that my ability to enjoy slowness is partly due to my privilege: I don't have to work two or three jobs just to be able to pay my mortgage and feed my kids, like many people do. I figure since I can live slowly, I might as well make the best of that privilege and try to save more energy and love and nurture my community as much as I can.

My son, touchingly, was enthused about my effort:

"Mom, you were so energy-efficient this week!" he declared.

Not too long ago, he and I were talking about how different the world will probably be when he's my age. He remarked thoughtfully, "Things are either going to be a lot better or a lot worse."

Let's go for better, my darling. Let's go for better.


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  2. Wonderful. I love the peacefulness of hanging laundry myself. Bird watching especially.