We have transitioned from eating the quick salads of summer to the slow foods of fall: chicken soup, bone broth, roasted vegetables. It seems like everything I make in the kitchen these days takes time. I make crackers, which dehydrate for a day. I ferment nut cheese, which takes about a day and a half. I soak and sprout lentils, which takes two or three days. I ferment vegetables, which takes about a week. This approach to food takes planning and patience and – I think – encourages great appreciation for the foods we put in our mouths.
Our social life is also slowing down. I’m always reticent about this transition at the end of summer and then grateful for it as fall really takes hold. During summer it seemed we were out and about at least once and often twice a day. Now we are staying inside for entire days and I am satisfied if we make it to library storytime and a playdate for the week’s outings. This process of slowing down with the season is always challenging for me and this year I’m trying to be more purposeful about the change.
Last week we were too busy and I could tell from Ellie’s behavior (and my reactions) that we needed to slow down. Yesterday I made it a goal to focus entirely on playing with Ellie – all day. I told myself that for one day there would be no housework, no checking email, no Facebook, no errands and not even sneaking in a quick practical activity like trimming Ellie’s nails. Just play. Well, just play and preparing and eating made-from-scratch meals.
In the morning I started our fire and set up our iPod to play Pandora’s Leonard Cohen channel. We stayed in front of the fire all morning, exploring Ellie’s chest of toys like they were all brand new. We built a castle of Duplos, played a matching game and looked at maps in her children’s atlas. We laughed and felt a tremendous closeness.
Slowing down challenges me on a deeper level because it involves letting go, stepping back, taking it easy. I have been so intensely engaged in getting Ellie on the path to wellness that I find myself a bit lost these days. There are open spells in my day when I used to reach for a book on diet and health or email a question to our nutritionist. My challenge now is not to continue in those rote behaviors when the underlying cause for them – my daughter’s health crisis – is well under control.
I am reading two wonderful books – Budhism for Mothers and Budhism for Mothers of Young Children, both by Sarah Napthali. My sister-in-law recommended Budhism for Mothers to me. We have both experienced parenting a sick child over the long term and the books are like a salve for the special heartsickness a mother in that situation can experience.
In Budhism for Mothers of Young Children there is a great passage called “Towards Slowness,” which is about our culture busyness. It says our society places such importance on being or appearing busy but that so much of mothering runs counter to that lifestyle. Sitting and nursing a child, for example, is the exact opposite of the concept of busy. Same goes for sitting and playing. But if we can free ourselves from the expectation that we be constantly busy we find freedom to enjoy simple moments with our children, who are just dying to luxuriate in the slowness of a walk in the park or a book read over and over again.
The passage ends with a Zen saying, which is “Beneath the one who is busy is the one who is not busy.” As the rain falls down I am digging down for the one inside me who is not busy.