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Monday, August 28, 2006

Slowing Down

This morning my seven-year-old son Luke said, “Sometimes I’m having so much fun I forget I’m alive.”

The kid is good at living life to the fullest, though sometimes he has so much fun he forgets to look out for oncoming traffic. It’s a tricky balance, keeping the presence and engagement of a child while remembering that life requires maintenance—the eight bags of groceries we bought after returning from vacation, the five loads of laundry, the bills that need paying, the prescription I still haven’t renewed yet, and the phone calls I have to make before I’m ready to start teaching Friday. Whenever we get back from a trip, I struggle to keep the spirit of relaxation and fun alive as I sort through a living room of damp sleeping bags and obligations.

But I have to say that Lake Champlain was beautiful.

After three days camping in Vermont, we took the ferry over to the Adirondack Mountains where we visited friends for another two nights. On the way I remembered Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth and the Quakers who were talking at Residential Yearly Meeting about driving the speed limit to save gas and reduce their impact on the environment. I adopted this practice myself for the Lent after September 11, 2001 and found it incredibly difficult. I think it was the combination of my impatience and the impatience of other drivers that did me in. This time I decided to just focus on slowing down, rather than getting obsessed with the speedometer. Not being in a hurry helped, as did the beautiful view.

Mountains always show up my schedule for the sham it is anyway. When we went hiking the next day and Luke pulled up some moss to throw at his sister (in fun, of course), our host Hollister explained to him that the moss had been growing for 100 years. When we kayaked to a waterfall that afternoon and my daughter Megan found a displaced piece of moss, she dipped it in the water and tried to replant it, as Hollister had shown them. Luke joined in and they went about trying to fix the moss damaged by previous hikers. It wasn’t clear if their efforts would work, just as it’s not clear if a few Quakers driving a bit slower (though still driving quite a bit) will fix the climate. But my children looked purposeful as they replanted the moss—present, alive, and having fun.

I need to remember the lessons of childhood and nature and try not to rush as we enter one of the most hectic times of year for a family. It helps to remember that moss is both soft and durable.


Blogger naturalmom said...

It's a tough balance, isn't it? I struggle with it too. Part of the problem seems to be that those necessary "maintanance" activities take up so much of my time and mental energy, no matter how I try to "simplify". I've come to accept that this somewhat over-burdened time is simply a season of life. Mothers of young children everywhere for all time are forced to focus on the physical, the concrete, the here and now and the near future perhaps more than we would like to be. We *should* hang on to the spiritual aspect of life and give it whatever space we can carve out, but there's a reason that joining a convenent precluded marriage and children, lol!

I read of a Tiebetan Budhist woman who became very comitted to spiritual persuits in middle age. Her son (the writer) speculated that these concerns had always been important to her, but caring for her family had made deep spiritual practice impractical while her children were at home. It made me realize that our condition isn't just a Western phenomenon.

Still, our culture can be so frenetic that we DO need to consciously slow down when we can. I'm glad you found some ways to do that this summer.

BTW, I've tried driving slower too, lol! I can only manage it when I really don't have any time pressures hanging over me. Otherwise it is *so* hard to go 15 -20 mph slower than the trafic around me!

9:51 AM  
Blogger naturalmom said...

Ugh, I didn't proof read very well. That should be "convent" at the end of the first paragraph. There are other typos too, but that's the most glaring. I wish we could edit comments...

9:54 AM  

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