Friday, September 03, 2004

Peace Like A River

Busy. Busy. Busy.

It's not only the fault of Fall Semester. It's not only the fault of TinyTuna and her growing calendar of activities. It's not only the fault of the house needing attention and the garden needing attention and the bunny needing attention and what's for dinner and teaching starts next week and where's my shoes and answer the phone and fix the bikes.

It's not only, but each activity plays a part in making my life one best lived on rollerskates. And yet, I wonder if I could, or would, live my life any other way?

I'm a compulsive multitasker. If I'm driving, I'm learning music. If I'm stitching or spinning or knitting, the TV is on. If I'm at work, I have library catalogs, email programs, Instant Messaging chats and something playing on RealAudio simultaneously. I wake to radio and fall asleep to TV. There is nothing worse in my book than finding myself someplace with NOTHING TO DO. No place is sacred. Even the bathroom is stocked with reading materials, because let's face it, it's a perfect opportunity to do something while I'm doing something.

The other day, as I was in the reading room, I came across a page from a book I bought on vacation called A Hatteras Anthology : The Voices of Hatteras Island. As I was thumbing through the essays, I ran across a poem by Linda Elizabeth Nunn, called "Cape of Hatteras." It was written in a similar style to "The Lake Isle of Innisfree" by William Butler Yeats. The Hatteras poem began:

I will arise and go now, and go to Hatteras,

And a small house make there, of driftwood built.

A plot of sea oats will I have there, and a row boat,

And live alone on the sand dune hill.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace is slow...

Peace is slow.


I went back and read it again

And I shall have some peace there, for peace is slow.

Gah. That sentence struck me as unusual and interesting and just plain odd. Peace is slow. I have to admit I never equated the two. Peace was peace, and slow was slow. Maybe I never saw the connection because slow isn't a good thing.

There are slow people who ride the slow bus. There are slow athletes who never win a race. Today it's speed reading, working on the fast track and going 0-60 in eight seconds. And it's not just corporate America. Look around the kitchen. With Quick Oats, Minute Rice, and Instant Pudding, we don't have to take the time anymore. Slow is bad. Slow gets in the way of doing all those other things...Like heaping even more projects on the already overburdened multi-tasking mule. And I'm here to say, the old gray mare, she ain't what she used to be.

I have to plan to be slow. In fact, I set aside time every year as my special "slow" time. It's called vacation. Yet the "slow" part doesn't come until we have completed several vacation days filled to the brim with traveling and visiting at a breakneck speed. And the nanosecond the "slow" part is over, it's back into the car, driving home at a very fast (yet law-abiding!) speed. Yeah. So much for slow. See you next time.

I want to blame the culture. I want to say it is quintessential American behavior to go, to do and to be fast. Other countries have month-long vacations. Not here. Other countries close their shops in the afternoons and all day on Sunday for rest and family time. We're a 24/7 nation. Peace is slow is such a foreign concept to Americans that we actually scheduled peace into our battle plan, and then proceeded to tsk tsk every time a self-imposed deadline passed. Peace can't be slow. It's just not the American way.

But I really can't blame the culture. I know I do too much, and I know it's my own fault. Or choice. Even my hobbies are done on overdrive, as I'm constantly trying to finish one more row, one more stitch, one more chapter, or one more project before I start three others.

Could I ever achieve slow? Would I be able to live slow? Perhaps, hardest of all, could I be content with a life less cluttered, or would I become so uncomfortable in my own existence that I would simply start filling it up again?

These are difficult questions that cannot be quickly or easily answered. I'm just going to let this idea of slow percolate in my brain for awhile. Peace is slow sounds fabulous, but seems impossible. I'm going to look for the slow in my life, and see if I can't nurture it a little. I'll keep you posted.

I will arise and go now, and go to Hatteras,

And a small house make there, of driftwood built.

A plot of sea oats will I have there, and a row boat,

And live alone on the sand dune hill.

And I shall have some peace there, for peace is slow,

Slow over the horizon, coming when the dawn sings.

There midnight is black velvet, and noon a furnace,

And evening full of seagull wings.

I will arise and go now, for always night and day,

I hear the ocean tumbling with mirth on the shore.

From maritime forest to windswept beach,

I hear it in my deep heart core.

---Linda Elizabeth Nunn

(with regards to William Butler Yeats and The Lake Isle of Innisfree

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Slow is good. speaking as someone who so overscheduled himself the last five years, I've been grappling with what to do next.....with this extra time...I should be catching up on reading, do some volunteering, oh, get back in choir.....
or just not do much, including surfing a bit, catching up with friends, cavorting a bit.
and it has been good.
One of the reasons I've been thinking I want a house is to do the garden work...sounds funny, but maybe not to you. Weeding is slow. which is the only good thing about it, but a good thing nonetheless!