(this post contains affiliate links)
September began with a back-to-school, double-birthday, two-nights-in-hospital swirl.
Our only option, once we had emerged on the other side of all that, was to slow time down. Way down.
How does one do that, you ask?
By wasting it, of course.
Stop rushing. Sit still. Stare out of a nearby window.
Take a nap. Putter in the kitchen. Read a book. And then another one.
Procrastinate. Yes, even that.
I am not suggesting you ignore your deadlines and abandon your obligations. But if a task might take two days, and you have three, then wait.
Delay is risky. You may find you don’t have quite as much time for work as you’d like. But there is risk in productivity, too. You might discover you have accomplished so much in a day that the day has gone by in a blur.
I can think of few things more tragic than a lifetime of blurry days.
For the past two weeks, I have wasted time like a professional. I have even broken my unspoken rule and actually read a novel in the morning. Shocking, I know. But when the novel is by Barbara Pym I can hardly help myself.
Pym was a twentieth-century Jane Austen. There is less conventional romance in her novels of a post-war Britain, there is certainly more melancholy, but there is the same keenly observant eye and witty sense of humor. So far I have read Excellent Women (1952) and Quartet in Autumn (1977), and I highly recommend them both. The first is more humorous, the second more preoccupied with sorrow, but both are quietly subversive and fiercely intelligent.
When not reading, I have been cooking. I’m not baking bread or making party appetizers, I am only making dinner. These quieter, slower days have reminded me that family dinner is not the onerous obligation I have sometimes believed it to be. Instead, it is a delicious, daily treat.
Of course, if I wait until five pm to give it my attention, then it can be stressful. But why should I wait? Why not sip my morning coffee while asking what’s for dinner? Surely there are few questions so full with pleasurable possibility.
This is especially true if you own one of my favorite family cookbooks Dinner: A Love Story. Jenny Rosenstrach’s recipes are straightforward, wholesome, and tasty, and her celebration of the family dinner hour (written from the perspective of a busy, full-time working mother, no less) has been just the inspiration I needed to try new recipes.
And, I can’t wait to try her just-released cookbook How To Celebrate Everything.
I recently finished Katherine Willis Pershey’s wonderful new book Very Married: Field Notes on Love and Fidelity. You can find my full review on Goodreads, but here is the condensed version: Very Married is my favorite book on marriage. The personal storytelling is funny and friendly, but it is also inspiring and wise.
This book (with a foreword by Eugene Peterson!) is also that incredibly rare thing in Christian publishing: a book for all of us. No matter how your own views line up with Christian teaching on marriage, Pershey’s book is for you. Whether you consider yourself liberal or conservative, Very Married is for you. Pershey doesn’t ignore controversial or complex topics, and she doesn’t hesitate to state her own positions, but she writes with such grace and compassion. Her book reminded me not only how beautiful fidelity can be, but how beautiful Christian unity can be.
If slowing down holds appeal for you, I have one more recommendation. My dear friend Summer Gross, an ordained minister and spiritual director, has recently inaugurated a “Slow Word Movement.”
Summer offers guided Scripture meditations, or Lectio Divina, via video through her website. You can sign up to receive each new “Slow Word” in your email inbox. Summer has made it so easy for us to hit pause in order to find that still point in our spinning world. I hope you’ll visit her website to find out more and subscribe.
Finally, here is my latest post for Grace Table. It includes a recipe for our new favorite cake.
What are you reading and cooking these days?
What a great post! thank you for it! so much truth and so counter-cultural. I think I’ll go sit and read a novel now 🙂
Go for it! 🙂
I am reading “Humble Roots” and “The Thirteenth Tale.” Not sure what I think about that last one yet. Reminds me of Kate Morton–but more disturbing than I anticipated thus far.
I have been making bread. I made some beer bread which is easy and delicious! And lots of apple-ish baked goods, cakes and crisps!
I’d like to read Humble Roots. I read The Thirteenth Tale about 5 or 6 years ago. I remember racing through it and also being disturbed, but that’s all I remember! I can’t even recall if I was glad I read it or not. And you remind me – I really, really need to make an apple crisp.
So much good stuff in here!! I can’t wait to delve into these selections!!
Happy reading, Erin!
Thank you so much for the link to the Slow Word Movement with Summer Gross. I had not heard of this concept before but was instantly captivated after listening to today’s reading from Matthew 14. As someone who literally craves solitude if too many days go by without any, this is just my cup of tea. I’ve subscribed and look forward to more listening and quiet reflection.
I am so glad you signed up, Teresa! Summer is a treasure, and she is offering us something very precious.
I just finished Hannah Coulter and was so moved by it. I can see now why so many friends said it was a “must read”. It is the kind of novel I’d love to read with a book club.
I’m now reading, in between review books, Barbara Pym’s “Civil to Strangers and Other Writings”. I have read the same books you mentioned but I have to admit, it was the cover that sold me. I saw it on someone’s Instagram photo and immediately added it to my Amazon wish list. I showed a photo on my Instagram with similar results. Sometimes one can judge a book by it’s cover.
I love Hannah Coulter! One of my favorite books. And, yes, I definitely judge books by their covers. 🙂
This is one of the best ways to describe the phenomenon of over-productivity (a particular vice of mine) that I’ve ever come across:
“Delay is risky. You may find you don’t have quite as much time for work as you’d like. But there is risk in productivity, too. You might discover you have accomplished so much in a day that the day has gone by in a blur.
I can think of few things more tragic than a lifetime of blurry days.”
Pleased to find you on Good Reads and excited to follow. Going to look up Pym’s works.
Thank you, Susan! Of course, I’m preaching to myself in this post. The lure of efficiency and productivity is strong for me too. I hope you enjoy Pym! I picked up two more of her books at my library yesterday.
I did like Pym; I just finished Excellent Women. It didn’t end as I expected… which has me intrigued for more.
Also I mentioned your good words here in a post I just wrote on time (and how I abuse it): http://www.susanbarico.com/blog/2017/1/18/time
Thank you again.
(PS. I’m reading Roots and Sky now as well and really enjoying it. We are fixer uppers ourselves – though not right now in Crete – and there is so much I can relate to…)
Susan, I am so glad you’re enjoying Roots and Sky. I read your blog post and loved it! Thank you. I think I’ll share it Monday on my facebook page. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.
You have a poetic way with words, and I love poetry. Thanks for opening yourself up to let the rest of us learn from you.
PS. Apologies on getting your name wrong in the post! Just corrected 🙂
I just finished “Parchment of Leaves” by Kentucky writer Silas House. (I had no idea the regional loyalty of Kentucky readers until I moved here, but then again, they’ve got a lot of amazing writers to claim!) I have also, perhaps unwisely, committed to reading all the Harry Potter books for a new weekly college ministry we kicked off. I’ve never read them, and one per week is a bit much, even for me. This week is number 4–750 pages! Oy! But it’s kind of fun to be “forced” to read so much.
I love the “slowing down” time idea. I’ve been mulling over this sort of thing, too. I called it living a “full” life in my most recent letter to my daughters (on my blog). I think being attentive to the small moments does change the trajectory of our days, weeks, and seasons.
Always a pleasure to see your book recommendations and your musings on life. It’s an encouragement to me, as a fellow lover of the quiet.