The following is the afterword of a collaborative project that came into being in partnership with Connor L. Wolfe [L.M. Browning] and a host of brilliant writers who are committed to intentional living, sustainability, and moving slower through life.
Do you ever find yourself walking slowly, meandering, sauntering with no lofty goal? There are so many reasons a person might take to the forest or prairie, or perhaps the beach or desert. Even a suburban park or urban alleyway will do. When we downshift from frantic running around (in all its modern forms) to a slow walk, and really take the time to notice what’s going on, things come to light that wouldn’t otherwise. I am more apt to remember how it feels to move at a pace that feels right and good, and do it more often. I am less likely to get caught up in the trap of being productive at all costs. I am able to take full breaths, and fill my lungs as they’re meant to be filled, instead of making them subsist on shallow gasps. There are a lot of reasons to walk slowly, to pay attention to the details, to emulate a snail’s pace. Consider what good things moving slow can bring about in life.
For me, that slow walk often takes place in the woods.
When I walk slowly, I see the tiny orange mushrooms that have taken up residence on the tops of three fallen oaks, enormous trees that crashed to earth years ago, that are now, in death covered with soft moss, green lichen, tiny orange mushrooms that look like they are just waiting for fairies to arrive for a festival of aliveness and wonder.
When I walk slowly, I can taste wild blackberries, the ones whose brambles tower high overhead and hang heavy with fruit in the late summer. Fingers stained purple, there are more berries here than any one creature needs, enough to eat a handful and pocket another for later. They taste like sunlight and wild nectar and joy in tiny purple offerings.
When I walk slowly, I can hear a breeze, one that’s been dormant the last few stagnant days, rustling leaves on the mighty Maples of the forest, and it’s like listening to a great chorus of gentle giants celebrating what life is like in the canopy.
When I walk slowly, I can feel the many feet of a tiny caterpillar, one that decides to crawl up my arm as I sit on an old stump by the lake, a tiny tickle on skin as the fuzzy black, yellow, and white being makes its own path on this new territory. Exploration completed after a few minutes, he steps off. I watch him make his way down the side of the stump and into the tall grass that leads him toward whatever comes next when you are a caterpillar in a woodland.
When I walk slowly, I smell the earthy loam underfoot, the musty aroma of the lake, the sharp scent of hot pine needles, the deep richness that is last year’s leaves mixed with the moisture the forest floor produces in abundance, a hint of rain in the atmosphere, the way quickly running water of a tiny creek carries with it coolness that reminds me how refreshment can sneak up on a person via any of the senses, the salt in my own tears that seem to well up from somewhere unknown. After enough time has passed, the scent of wildness and humanness merges, remembrance falling together that all beings are part of the same body.
Ross Gay says, “Is sorrow the true wild?
And if it is—and if we join them—your wild to mine—what’s that?
For joining, too, is a kind of annihilation.
What if we joined our sorrows, I’m saying.
I’m saying: What if that is joy?”
I walk slowly in the woods to remember to be alive with my whole self, to join those thickets of dense seemingly inaccessible wilds that live in each of us as sorrow, with something deeper than what I can access on my own. I walk slowly to claim the pace that serves my life best, one that allows a simple existence, one that is attuned to the joys and sorrows of an earthly life. I walk slowly to ensure my quest for a good life is met by enough joy to keep me going for another day.
There are a lot of reasons to walk slowly, be it through a forest or through life itself. May your reasons join with mine, those of all these other writers, and all the sorrows of the world as we continue the search for simple.
Just think of what would happen if more of us grew carrots and felt the wind on our faces and let birdsong be the soundtrack to life. ~from the introduction
In Search of Simple: Field Notes from Near and Far on Slow Living explores what it can look like to seek out slow living and embrace a life steeped in intentionality. Whether it’s navigating grief to decluttering a home or habits to processing trauma, the writers in these pages have a wide variety of lived experiences and approach simple living differently–but they all end up in the same place: living the life they are made to live. You’ll move from Romania to Colorado to New Zealand to Minnesota to New England to Canada with these writers, and by doing so, you’ll see that there are folks in search of simple scattered near and far. We hope this anthology inspires you to find the pace of life that sets you up to best contribute to the healing of the world.
One thought on “Why to walk slowly”
Heidi, your deep thoughtfulness and walk with nature is inspiring for that is indeed where we find not only ourselves but the Creator as well. Thank you!