Wednesday, April 11, 2012

shifting to slow

Last year at this time, I was getting ready to move. The farmhouse wasn’t quite ready – renovations were ongoing until early May, but enough was completed and I wanted to be there.

It was a crazy month: the move (mostly done by us, to keep costs down), the end of a tough teaching semester, the sale of the condo, the ambitious preparation of flower beds for the planting season -- it all seems overwhelming now, in retrospect.

By comparison, this month this year is very calm.

Home, work – they fill the hours. A big decision for me now would be whether I should bike to work. And then whether I should turn back (and take the car) if it feels too cold.

Today it felt too cold. The arctic wind made me want to turn back and when I didn’t, my face solidified into something very stiff, so that when I met with students during office hours, I felt a tad constrained. As if I was speaking from behind something solid. Maybe a clay mold. A dried paper mache form. With a voice inside.

But the ride itself was (aside from the cold) stellar. Strong northerly wind, but bright skies.

The farmers to the east of us were working away. Tilling, always tilling. Breaking down the clay.


I pause to watch. No matter how pressed for time I am, I always want to stop, watch for a while, wave. They probably think I’m odd that way. They work. Work is work.

The day spins forward and before I know it it’s late and I’m pedaling home.
This evening, the return ride is exceptionally beautiful. Even at 6, the light is good, the air is at its warmest. Once I get home, I don’t want to go inside. Not just yet.

There’s so much that I could, that I should be doing now.


Consider the raspberry patch. A jungle of canes, some flourishing, some past the moment of compulsory retirement – all mixing well with weeds, thistle, creeping Charlie – in other words, a mess.

In the early years of hanging out with Ed, I’d come to the farmette and set my goals high: I’ll fix this patch, I’d say to him. And I would try. But never adequately, never so that it made any real difference.

These days, like Ed, I do as much as feels right. Never less, never more.

And when I am too tired to continue, I clip a few lilac branches and retreat to the farmhouse.

DSC01004 - Version 2

I seem to have left my faster pace behind when I moved here.
We should plant the next two rows of lettuces.
Makes sense...
Maybe after I clip a few canes.
Uh huh... I have some woodchips to distribute...
Yes you do...

But for now, there are the blossoms to admire. That takes time. Everything else can wait.



  1. wonderful to hear you shifting to slow and savoring the spring, so magnificent this year.

  2. You've got this great big beautiful world at the farmette now and taking time to smell the flowers is a must. That photo of the tree (is it a crabapple or a cherry tree?) is incredible. You are not only an artiste for the written word, but a true artiste in the visual sense. You could earn your living just on photography alone more than likely. There are so many things to do there at the farmette, it's too bad you couldn't carve down your teaching schedule and maybe go to part-time.

    Props to you also for riding your bike to work. How many miles?

  3. Ah, thank you both!

    I have summers free from classroom obligations, so there's that.

    As for biking -- 8 miles each way. If we go to Paul's for a coffee, then it's 8 to work, 8 to Paul's and then 4 to the farmette, for a total of 20. I can only do it on days when I don't have an early morning class. It takes time to bike that much. I can't average more than 10 mph on this route.

    The trees are glorious right now. Truly breathtakingly beautiful.

  4. as someone who is now only with bike and no car, i also love to see examples of a bicycle being utilized for a commute and not just recreation. now the u.s. needs to expand its bike paths-- even bike-friendly madison.


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