Sunday, August 26, 2007

Slowing Down

I have a friend who shakes her head at my way of doing things. When I mentioned hulling enough elderberries for three pies she told me the best way to do that was to use a fork to strip the berries from the stem. In this way the work goes quicker and your fingers don’t get stained. Personally I prefer the hands on method, no fork involved. It’s a job I enjoy doing, taking each cluster of berries and starting from the top, separating the stems and plucking and rolling the tiny fruit off with my finger. I guess it’s somewhat of a sensory experience for me.

I feel the same way about hulling elderberries as I do about snapping green beans or peeling and slicing potatoes. I have a vegetable peeler and a food processor. But there is something about taking your time and holding a potato and carefully peeling it with your favorite paring knife, then slicing it by hand into a skillet or pan. I often prefer to do things the slow way much of the time. Whether it be preparing food by hand rather than machine, washing dishes rather than loading a dishwasher (which I don’t even own) or hanging the clothed outdoors on the line as opposed to tossing them in the drier. In this way “work” becomes pleasure, often a meditation, giving one pause to consider the many facets of the act or the item itself or perhaps to let the mind drift where it will.

One can find much satisfaction, even pleasure in slowing down. When one proceeds in this way, the simple act of preparing a meal or doing the laundry becomes somewhat reverent. My friend questions my desire to can my garden produce rather than packing it up and freezing it all. My reasons are practical and I suppose one could say philosophical, also. A person does a thing in a way that matters to them. I preserve food because it is practical; it keeps longer than frozen food and will not spoil due to a power outage. But, I also preserve because it’s a tradition I choose to carry on, one that gives me a great sense of accomplishment. There is true pleasure in seeing the finished product, the rows of sparkling glass jars filled with relishes, tomatoes, pickles and more. They are beautiful and filled with promise of sustenance and enjoyments in the months ahead when the cold winter sets in. Perhaps they will fill gift baskets during the holiday season or be a special gift for a friend. You just can’t see all those facets in a frozen zip lock bag.

Maybe it takes a little longer or even a lot longer to dice the peppers by hand or make the spaghetti sauce from fresh tomatoes or can the vegetables rather than freeze them, but in each preparation there is the energy of hands and heart. These efforts are spiritual acts, creations imbued with the energy of pleasure and love, resulting in something I believe to be of far more value in far more ways than a can of commercially produced food.

So maybe it takes me longer purposefully to do certain things, but in the end I think the value of time is a result of how satisfied we are with what we do with it.

1 comment:

  1. This is a wonderful reflection on the quality and personal satisfaction of real living. The way we 'feel' about such seemingly small matters is also the way traditions get carried on. This has proven so in the fact that we both have twenty-something daughters who know how to bake bread from scratch and preserve fresh homegrown produce in a jar.. not the norm today. Kudos to you for sharing your thoughtful perspective!


I sure appreciate your taking the time to share your thoughts. I may not always have time to respond or acknowledge them but I do read them all and highly value your presence here.