What Summer Does to me

Springtime is over in Savannah. We had the most pleasant of all Springs, everything bloomed within a few weeks of each other and it made the air smell sweet, like that subtle fragrance released after brushing up against a lavender bush. In the mornings the light was so cool and golden that it could taste like a pear.

I listened to a lot of Ani Difranco and went to bed early, dreaming of colors, scents, pine trees, and people who I admired.

I felt light. Arm balances and inversions were accompanied with a sense of ease.

But now, Springtime is over. More than ever. Summer is here, not quite its fullest form, but almost. Georgia heat is different from other places, it doesn’t cool off at night time or early morning–it lingers. It’s still eighty five at 3am and the air is dense, juicy, you can almost slice into it as you would a tomato. The light has changed, too, it’s more compact and opaque, like the orange of a bitten-into peach, its nectar spilling over, drooling down your hand and into the creases of your wrist.

I’ve been listening to a lot of Neil Young and I sleep without blankets, dreaming of redwoods, the ocean, dancing.

My practice has become slow and intentional and intense. I feel strong, rooted down. I crave standing sequences that require balance.

Summertime in Savannah has slowed me way, way down. And it feels damn good.

We live in a fast culture, and it keeps getting faster. It is easy to be swept away in the oblivion of instant communication–through email, texting, Facebook…as well as the pressure to make quick decisions, fast driving, fast conversations and even faster food. We feel accomplished when we get a high amount of productivity in a low amount of time.

Why?

I am the queen of multitasking. I am damn good at it. I’ve learned little shortcuts to get things done faster, like putting a pot of tea on the stove and then cleaning the kitchen while it steeps. I answer emails on my phone while I walk to work. Sometimes I brush my teeth in the shower.

Yes, multitasking is something that we have all mastered. But the day never feels right when I do this. It doesn’t feel like I’m really there, really soaking it all in. Multitasking pulls me physically and mentally in different, opposing directions. Centered is the last thing I feel. There is no flow to my day.

Summertime has helped me learn to be slow. How to dedicate myself to one task at a time, to one thought at a time, how to be aware. Things take me longer to complete–making dinner, walking to work, doing laundry, driving. And I’m finally learning how to be okay with being slow.

How often do we get anxious when we get stuck behind a slow car on a single lane road? Since when did fifty five become not fast enough? When did dinner become something that can be cooked in a microwave in under five minutes? Why isn’t it okay to spend an entire day cleaning the house? Or reading? Or drawing? Or doing cartwheels?

And since when did it become so incredibly, unspeakably painful for us to do absolutely nothing at all?

Guilt. That is what we feel when we don’t do anything. We feel like we are wasting time, being irresponsible, boring, and lazy. Surely, we don’t deserve even five minutes anymore of doing nothing.

Doing nothing is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Sometimes I have to force myself to just sit, or lay, or be still, just for a few minutes. The guilt starts to happen quickly…you start making a mental to-do list, and things just keep piling on and on, weighing you down so much that you have to get up and be productive before one more second goes by. Or, if you can keep the mental to-do list at bay, you start to realize…hmm…this whole “doing nothing” thing doesn’t feel good. All I have to do is hang out with myself, with my breath, with my emotions. This can scare most people shitless.

For whatever reason, slowing down has proven to be something that we as a culture can’t seem to do. Just try it. Take three hours to make dinner, cut each vegetable with care, measure everything out, make it perfect, and stop–frequently–to sip on a glass of wine and look out the window or kiss your sweetheart (human, dog, cat, the back of your own hand, whatever you’re in love with in that moment). Eat each bite slow. Even slower. Taste what you have created. After you’re done eating, sit at the dinner table for an hour, either with yourself or someone else. Talk. Don’t talk. Just sit. Drink wine. Wash the dishes, by hand, treat each dish as if it were a sacred artifact from history. Dry them too.

Drive the speed limit. Take a few days to respond to an email that isn’t urgent (most of them aren’t). Take time to thoughtfully write them back. Talk to someone for hours. Take longer than usual at the grocery store. Linger (without being creepy) when someone hugs you.

Do nothing.

And have a sweet, slow summer.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. kate jacobson
    Jun 03, 2011 @ 13:29:45

    You might enjoy listening to “Slow Poke” by Crosby, Stills , Nash & Young.

    Kate

    Reply

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