In Praise of Slow Living

A snail strolling at its leisure along a clematis blossom. The clematis variety is “Dawn”.

I’m looking forward to dipping into the book that came in the mail today, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating. It’s the story of a “woman—confined to bed with an illness —who watches a wild snail who has taken up residence on her nightstand. She writes of the rewards of observing nature.” Observing nature, in fact, is one of the things I enjoy most about gardening: seeing a goldfinch swoop as I water, stopping to watch a bee zoom into rugosa rose blossoms, or walking out onto a glittery snowfall to fill up bird feeders. These things involve pausing, slowing down. Watching a snail over a long period, however, is a level of slowing down that I’ve yet to experience.

December calls for a slower life. As weather gets colder, days shorter, the hibernation instinct kicks in. Tell me, has your bed ever actually called to you, all womb-like and cozy? The urge towards a tantalizingly appealing nap is one we ought not resist, in my view.

The festive season, however, with its celebrations and obligations sadly works against our slowing down. Parties and presents can work us into a frenzy, not to mention keeping up with the day to day must-dos. Last night I went through my usual “Oh no, what will dinner be tonight?” and remembered I could simply toss a few sweet potatoes in the oven to slowly bake. Easy peasy, and no pan to wash. Sigh of relief. Then my mind was freed up to imagine something simple to add. Tuna melts, as it happened, made while enjoying the sweet aroma from the oven.

Doing something the easy way can sometimes be the slow way. Opting out to watch a snail, taking time to do something that has no obvious value, other than you want to do it can sometimes be the best use of your time. Reading about a snail’s journey during the month of craziness may help to inspire me, I hope, to keep perspective, keep calm, and slow down.

Photo: Helen Battersby

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