The Urgency of Slowing Down

Wild ones…

I don’t think this is the springtime any of us were expecting. But it is springtime nonetheless, so I’m peeking out of my [quarantine] cave to say hello and send blessings from my hermit heart…

How are you doing? How is your family, your community, your health? I would love to hear from you in these times. Your stories are so welcome. (email anytime)

Strangely, even through the stressors, fears, and shaky ground, I’ve been savoring this time of socially-accepted quietude. It’s true that I am healthy and safe and have a little work, and so amidst this perhaps uncommon good fortune, I find myself able to reflect upon some thoughts this time is stirring up…

Would you like to make yourself a cup of tea and plant yourself somewhere cozy – in a sunbeam, in your favorite chair – before reading further? For I’d love for you to sit with me for a spell, and I might ramble a bit…..

(♬ and if you’re not in the mood for words, scroll down for some music at the end…♬)

… .. .  .   .
Ahh, welcome back, and thank you for joining! I’m so grateful you’re willing to take the time. For that’s what I’d like to talk about today – time, and the pace we move through it. One simple thing, but with far-reaching repercussions…

First off, a disclaimer: I want to acknowledge that we don’t all have the privilege to rest easily in this time. Some of you may be working around the clock to save lives, to get groceries on our shelves, to deliver things to our doorsteps… Some of you may be at home but out of work and stressed about how you’re going to put food on the table, let alone keep that home. Some of you may be overwhelmed, exhausted, maybe even homeschooling for the first time! Some of you may even be battling sickness as we speak, coronavirus or otherwise. These are Hard times, and some of what I write below may not resonate with you.

But while some of the suggestions I make come from a place of privilege, I’m also speaking to a systemic change I would like to see humanity address in order to build a more sustainable future on this beautiful planet even after the dust [eventually] settles from this pandemic…

Indeed, many of us are probably musing upon the world we would like to see emerge from this time – be it the cleaner air and waters we’ve been seeing in the headlines, the uncommon acts of generosity we’ve watched emerge, a culture that allows us to take more time for those we love, more birdsong… But if we truly seek change, we must first address one root issue.

What is this I speak of? What big change is needed? Ironically, the very change this crisis has already forced upon many of us – the need to slow down.

Slow down to simply be, here, now.
…Nowhere to go.
Slow down our frantic need for speed and achievement.
…It really is okay to pause.
Slow down our consumption. Slow down our production.
…I understand, we have needs.
Slow down our endless industry.
…How might we simplify those needs?
Slow down and appreciate the forgotten yet profound world right under our feet.
…Yes, here.
Slow down and notice the other-than-human beings as well.
…Small creatures, new buds, worn stone…
Slow down and let our nervous systems unwind, get quiet inside, investigate our motives, and clear the cobwebs from our hearts…
…I know, that’s a lot.

Listen, I get it. This may not be easy.

For in slowing down, we have to face so much about the way we’ve been living… .

“Who would we be if we didn’t have to prove ourselves?”

We’ve distracted ourselves with speed, accomplishment, and the flash-dash of human-made novelties.

We’ve been told we have to earn, to achieve, or that we are otherwise worthless, lazy. Puritanical ideals run rampant in this so-called modern age.

So when we slow down, we may feel restless. Discomfited. Maybe even afraid. As we pull back the reins, we may wonder what we’re worth if we’re not moving, doing, striving… Who would we be if we didn’t have to prove ourselves? What different choices might we make?

This might be an interesting line of inquiry…

In slowing down there may also be sadness and grief. I hope there will be grief! Not only for the lives lost and sundered in these uncommon times and our own losses big and small, but also the deep-seated ancient grief for our disconnection from nature, each other, and even ourselves. For the endangered and vanishing flora and fauna, and indeed for the destabilization of our home planet itself.

Perhaps this time of slowing down might also be a relief. Our nervous systems might now be unwinding from years of running on overdrive. We’ve been clambering so fast to keep up, never quite catching our breath, all the while maybe not even remembering where (or why) we’re going, going, going… Perhaps this is the first time we’ve had any sense of perspective in a long time.

Whether grief or relief, I know the current reality is easier remarked upon than experienced – as much of the world has come to a grinding halt, many of us are left disoriented, distressed, displaced, even destitute. As a civilization, we’re not set up to slow down: we must scramble to adhere to the “slaving meat wheel,” lest we fall off and lose our place, or worse, find ourselves in dire straits.

Around the world, every possible scenario is playing out, and I don’t wish to discount any person’s reality (though some are so heartbreaking that I sincerely hope that this wake-up call will help galvanize change! ?)

For indeed, this is a wake-up call, and sadly, not an unexpected one…

The scientists – both epidemiologists and ecologists – are saying this crisis was anticipated. By fragmenting and destroying intact ecosystems, we’ve been bound to unleash legions of viruses yet unknown. Indeed, the same factors that have long contributed to climate change may continue to release innumerable new viruses – but only now that the threat is a little more immediate (and perhaps graspable), are we paying attention!

But are the warmongers and rampant capitalists? Alongside this pandemic, top headlines are about the economy, Wall Street. Is this really so important when our very existence is threatened? What value exists in an economy that debases human life and the health of our planet?

“…the also-human need for beauty, for the companionship of wild animals, for the silence and sounds of singing spring water, rustling leaves, birds calling at dawn, the hush that comes in the eve…”

Believe me, I too struggle to extricate myself from the untold “conveniences” of modern life. Though I strive for something different, and live an uncommonly simplified life, I am still complicit. So daily I aim to remind myself what is important, question my own motives, take what actions I can, and live devoted to a beautiful and wild human- and world-soul.

Much to my dismay, many people’s eyes aren’t even open to the wonders beyond the human-made: to the also-human need for natural beauty, for the companionship of wild animals, for the silence and sounds of singing spring water, rustling leaves, birds calling at dawn, the hush that comes in the eve…

So my mission, for many years now, has premised on one simple question: How can I help others fall. in. love. with this place? How can I inspire enchantment with life’s simple wonders, and help remind people that there’s an incredible world beyond the merely-human?

“…to the creatures that also need land to roam and rest, to the forests who talk to each other and whose roots must live in strong, unbroken webs.”

I return again to one simple answer: slowing down. For it is in slowing down that we might begin to see. To hear. And thereby to listen, to witness, and maybe even take part.

If we take time, precious time, and our eyes and ears are open, I’m pretty sure the world will begin speaking to us, drawing our attention toward her…

And from attention grows love. Many of us have an unprecedented opportunity to pay attention for the first time in a very long while. Perhaps when we were kids we used to notice the bugs more, or spend hours transfixed by a stream, or under a tree… It’s not always the big, sweeping majesties, but can be the itty-bitties that reawaken our senses and return our sense of wonder.

This place, our home, is a marvel! And when we remember that we are actually a part of the more-than-human world, when we take our place back in the family-of-all-things, even amidst nature’s gorgeous and frightening complexity, we will become less lonesome, less addicted to all our human accoutrements, and more satisfied with much-needed simplicity.

If we make a practice to reconnect in an intimate, personal, daily way – stepping outside barefoot, listening to the wind, touching the dirt – we will likely make different lifestyle choices, and we will be driven to do our part to advocate for deep-rooted and systemic changes. The other-than-human-world needs more allies – I hope you will join me!

“I would like to see a new sort of human emerge from this time.”

Personally, I would like to see a new sort of human emerge from this time. For myself, I aim to walk even more squarely in right reciprocal relation with this planet and these lands I live on (📍currently Ute & Cheyenne traditional lands). I would like to continue learning more sustainable skill sets: how can I grow and raise and forage more of my own food and medicines, how can the dwellings I build live in harmony with the land they stand on, what are the resources I bring into my home and where did they come from, what hands crafted them, from what? My eyes are awakened to the impact we modern humans have when we satisfy our “needs,” and I question those needs, and seek alternatives.
“I am not only human, but I am animal too….”

For I would like to be good kin to the other beings on this planet – to the creatures that also need land to roam and rest, to the forests who talk to each other and whose roots must live in strong, unbroken webs.

For these are my friends. I am not only human, but I am animal too, and I am part of this web.

But I am human as well, and these are scary, sweet, exciting, difficult, yet strangely occasionally peaceful times.

With all this in mind, here are some activities that are seeing me [slowly] through these days…

  • Sleep. Did you know that most Americans are chronically sleep-deprived? Did you also know that this not only has a detrimental effect on our immune systems, but also on our moods, IQ, and our ability to make clear or creative decisions? Indeed, sleep is one of the great unsung medicines of our time. Yes, you may lose a few hours of your day if you start to sleep as much as you truly need – but the hours left will be far more vibrant, focused, and well-balanced. Stop walking around in a half-baked stupor, my friends, sleep, sleep, sleeeep! (One of the best things I ever did was to wake up without a clock or alarm for several months. I discovered that my sleep needs are higher than average, and stopped judging myself for not feeling rested with a mere 7-8 hours, especially in the winter.)
  • Reading. I love stories, but I often feel disoriented and creatively empty after watching [too much] Netflix. I find books leave a different effect on me – I feel more enlivened after reading, my own imagination still quite alive inside. At the same time, reading can be such a great sedative for sleep! (see above ↑) You can find me on Goodreads if you’re curious what I enjoy – but I’ll understand if our tastes tend in different directions…
  • Seeds. Baby plants. I can think of no better time to start a garden! (And it’s always a good time to start a garden!) I’ll confess, I’m an incorrigible seed-saver. I collect them whenever I can – from wild specimens, from gardens I pass, from plants I myself have grown… So I didn’t have to go out and purchase a bunch to start growing my spring starts. But if you don’t have any, order some if you can! Growing food, herbs, flowers… is such medicine. It reminds us we can be in loving relationship with the land, and reminds us of the miracle of regeneration. Growing provides [beauty, food, medicine] for us, and is truly and simply fun. If you’ve never tried caring for something from seed, this spring is a great time to try!

    Here are 3 of my favorite seed companies: botanicalinterests.com, bbbseed.com, masaseedfoundation.org.

    → And if you’d like some of my ❀ red marigold seeds ❀, simply email me with your mailing address! I’ve got tons leftover from the pollinator fundraiser a couple of years ago and would happily send some your way…

  • Making beauty of my surroundings. Perhaps this means tidying up. Or hanging something. Or mending or tending something neglected (be it a sweater, a plant, a corner of the garden…). I labeled all my spice jars, hung a new picture, raked my yard – these don’t have to be complex things. Beauty is a vital human need, and it does us well to surround ourselves with it.
  • Get crafty. From knitting to woodwork, sketching to sewing… These sorts of activities, even if not done with an aim for result, are incredible ways to unwind the brain and even unleash its creative meanderings… Hands like to be busy, and our minds need free rein to wander, both for relaxation and for inspiration. Some crafts (such as building deer-proof garden beds like I’m currently doing) also hone the analytical or puzzle-solving parts of the brain – such good exercise!
  • Speaking of wandering, it may serve us to remember that not every walk has to be exercise (“huff and puff,” as I call it), but we can simply wander as well. Yes please, wander! With open eyes, you may be stunned at the mini marvels that abound when we savor the exploration, rather than aim for a destination. Even around my own yard, I’m constantly delighted by birds or a new plant emerging…
  • Time in the sun and in the fresh air. On nice days I’ve been loving taking tea or brunch outside, which often leads to more outdoor activity (walking, stretching, yardwork…) For those of us in northern climes, this is a lovely in-between season when we can savor the spring sun (between snows or showers) before it becomes too strong. Plus, vitamin D is an essential ingredient for a healthy immune system!
  • Call a friend. Or family member. Someone you haven’t talked to in a while. Keep in touch! I honestly love a good old-fashioned phone call, but even a little text or audio message exchange can make my day when I’m so far away… What creative ways have you stayed connected in this time of distancing?
  • Kindness. Speaking of friends…or family…or housemates – some of us are not coping with lonesomeness so much as navigating the waters of much greater proximity to those we live with. So my suggestion, whether alone or together: be kind. To ourselves, to one another. Remember that we’re all under more stress than usual. I had a couple of rough bumps with landmates before it came strikingly clear just how much extra patience, gentleness, and care is needed in this time.
  • Social media fasts. And if I can get away with it, even total internet fasts. At the very least I make sure to spend the first hour of my day offline. But weekly I try to take an entire day or at least an evening off the internet as well. I feel much happier when I retract the ever-outward-reaching threads and come back into my own skin.
  • Learn something new. I’m not sure if my love of wildcrafting and woodwork will ever extend beyond my personal sphere, but they fulfill a niche in my mundane life that brings me joy—that in itself is enough. Learning keeps the brain flexible and strong. And you never know how learning something seemingly irrelevant may inform your life (and your gifts) moving forward. Have you wanted to learn the constellations? The birds in your neighborhood? A new language? Cooking? Primitive skills? An interesting arc of history? There are so many resources, many free, online, and even apps on your phone that can help you follow a new hobby or interest. If you’re drawn to it, dive in, even if it doesn’t make “sense.”
  • And there’s always music. (And of course I’m currently working on more to share with you 😉 If you’re more of a listener, enjoy, even get up and dance! We musicians love knowing our little recorded gems may be helping you through these times. Like to play or sing yourself? Solo serenades are totally good for the soul! And if this is a hard time for you, sing (or sing along to) a sad song – I know that may sound counter-intuitive, but I’ve always experienced the truth of the saying, “the only way out is through.” By embracing the depths of our emotions, only then do they release their grip and allow us to rise unencumbered into relief and joy on the other side… Singing is profound medicine – so no matter what you think you “sound like,” do it for yourself, your soul. On a physiological level, you’re actually resonating your organs and bones – it’s rather good for you.
  • On that note, if your neighborhood is doing the nightly howl, this may be a precious opportunity for the healing medicine of sound. If it feels right to you, let this be a time to let out tears, to let your howl be a wail, to sing out your fears, your frustrations, your deep heart sorrows… Please don’t be afraid to let this be a vulnerable moment – the world doesn’t need more, louder, faster – it needs our tender, awakened hearts.
  • Indeed, in these times more than ever, may we be unafraid to feel. It is OKAY to feel whatever you’re feeling right now. But most important: don’t judge yourself for it. There are too many factors at work (societal pressures, upbringing, systemic oppression, unavoidable stressors of this uncommon time…) for us to take our feelings too personally. And yet our emotions are also our precious guides, the shadowy friends who say what nobody else has the courage to say. Anger, rage, depression, sadness, shame, fear – these are not banners to be waved, but are simply wake up calls that something needs to change, something has been hidden, something is asking to be seen. Please don’t let your reactions run the show, don’t cling to them as gold – but let them share their wisdom with you, let them open your heart deeper to the tenderness beneath…

And there are surely more! What tools, activities, and practices have been seeing YOU through this time? I’d love to hear!

Most of all, be gentle with yourself – while this may be a fun time to try something new, that might also just be too much pressure. There is so much to feel, to grieve, to process right now – being real and true to yourself is better medicine than any other.

Be courageous my friends! Keep your heart open in these times. Allow your demons to sit by your side. Find the tender self you left behind in the rush for more, better, faster… Take time.

Oh yes, and while you’re at it, wash your hands and stay home if you can (but do take a walk!). And if you’re one of those people who has a crucial job in this time and can’t stay home – THANK YOU! We couldn’t do this without you. ?

With all my love and care,

“The world is full of magical things patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper.”
~ Bertrand Russell

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Edited by Felisa Rogers
All photos courtesy of Unsplash.com:
(from top) Chad Madden, S.L., Muhammad Ruqiyaddin, Gabriel Jimenez


Prose Musings
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 ♬♪ Music and Other Goodies ♪

“Whatever it is, coronavirus has made the mighty kneel and brought the world to a halt like nothing else could. Our minds are still racing back and forth, longing for a return to “normality,” trying to stitch our future to our past and refusing to acknowledge the rupture. But the rupture exists. And in the midst of this terrible despair, it offers us a chance to rethink the doomsday machine we have built for ourselves. Nothing could be worse than a return to normality.”
“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Morrígan ~ to evoke the guardian+warrior within…

“Often referred to as a ‘war’ or ‘battle’ goddess, I see The Morrígan as more of a protectress, a guardian of her people. In these extreme times, I feel we need the strength of a warrioress in order to protect that which we hold dear ~ the earth, her creatures, each other…..” ~ Ariana

Quarantine Sessions ~ a playlist of live music from home…

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“The time has come to lower our voices, to cease imposing our mechanistic patterns on the biological processes of the earth, to resist the impulse to control, to command, to force, to oppress, and to begin quite humbly to follow the guidance of the larger community on which all life depends.
~ Thomas Berry
“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.”
~ Rachel Carson
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