The Pleasures of a Life Slowed Down

Posted by on March 25, 2013

This post first appeared on on March 2, 2013

“There is more to life than increasing its speed.” ~Gandhi

oakley_0302a I am in a sling until nearly the middle of April. It is awkward and bulky and I didn’t ask the doctor whether or not I could drive. That is quite all right though – I can still walk. I like to walk. And I do walk – a lot. I walk, not so much for exercise, but to get to the places I want to go. When the weather gets warmer I may start to ride my bicycle, but, in the winter, my preferred mode of transportation is walking.

In order to get to places in a timely manner by foot, I have to allow enough time. The emphasis here is on the word allow. What that means, is that I have to slow my life down so that I have the time to walk.

I began walking in earnest during graduate school. I was living in Evanston, Ill., and going to Northwestern University. I didn’t own a car. I didn’t even have a driver’s license. A friend gave me an old single-speed Schwinn that reliably took me from my apartment to campus, a distance of almost two miles, nearly every day. But, every few weeks, an event would happen which would trigger my “slow down and walk” reflexes. I am, of course, speaking of <<drumroll, please>> an exam.

On the day of an exam, I would always walk to campus. Not only that, I would always take a longer round–about route, which took me closer to Lake Michigan and the wonderful walking trails in the parks that bordered the lake. The detour added about three quarters of a mile to my route, but it was worth it. I definitely did not need to rush to school on my bicycle. What I needed was time to decompress from the frenetic activity of studying and worrying. I needed time to clear my mind, to see the world around me, to get far away from busy roads and fast-paced cars, to breathe deeply of the air, to smell the water in that big beautiful lake.

When I walk, time slows. Well, not really, but it does take a longer passage of time to traverse a fixed distance. So, in a sense, my time slows and I am able to experience things I would not have been able to otherwise.

  • the starchy crunch of snow under my feet on a really cold day.
  • the adventure of navigating puddles on a wet slushy day.
  • the patterns of frost on a line of trees.
  • the commotion of a choir of birds, fluttering in a bush.
  • the smell of smoke from the chimneys of wood stoves.
  • the red glow of the full moon, huge on the horizon.
  • the brilliance of the stars in the night sky.

I so often see people rushing about, cars swooping around other cars to shave off that fraction of a second. I want to tell them “Slow down!” In slowing down, we can see more of what is around us, we can appreciate more of what is around us, and we can enjoy more of what is around us.

And, perhaps, the first step is to go on a walk.

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