For me, slowness usually has negative connotations. Laziness. Procrastination. Burnout. Depleted energy. But lately I find myself slowly embracing slowness. It’s not about a lack of desire or attention or passion or engagement. All of that persists, but minus the urgency and the pressure.
A few months ago I heard an interview with Elizabeth L. Cline, author of Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion and an advocate of slow fashion Slow fashion can mean luxury in a largely forgotten sense of the word: hand-crafteed, high quality, timeless. Think Hermès, not Louis Vuitton. Dana Thomas’s book De-luxe deals head-on with the demise of quality in so-called luxury goods, and the New York Times recently reported a revival of an old-school approach to luxury. For those of us who can’t or don’t or won’t invest in haute couture, slow fashion means a shift in consciousness and behavior, attention to where our clothing is made, under what conditions, at what cost to people and to the environment. It can be as simple as not buying that tank top in 4 colors just because it is so unbelievably cheap. Not hoarding more clothing than you can possibly wear on a regular basis. Choosing quality and sustainability over quantity and short-term gratification. Not needing seasonal closet-cleansing for well intentioned trips to Goodwill, which may or may not need your discarded stuff.
The idea of slow fragrance has been in the air for a while now, too, though it doesn’t seem to have stalled the break-neck production speed of the perfume market.
Several perfume bloggers have posted in the last few months about a personal evolution toward slowing down in terms of keeping up with what’s out there, sampling and writing about the next new thing, and above all, acquiring new stuff. (I’m thinking of Another Perfume Blog on simplifying, Bonkers about Perfume on taking stock, and Bloody Frida whose summer has been scented by fresh organic produce. I’m sure others have blogged about this, too.)
I have a long way to go before I master slow fashion, slow fragrance, even slow food. But looking back over the past few months, I see how slowness has been creeping up on me. It started with a course in “Mindfulness for Stress Reduction.” I signed up as a sequel to countless other strategies I’d tried for managing insomnia. Though the instructor was inspiring, I was a miserable failure. I know, I know, “we don’t judge here,” says the instructor; so my negative self-assessment makes it a double failure. I couldn’t shut off my mind during meditions. I made mental to-do lists. I felt even more stressed out after the class than before, since I’d now lost two precious hours that I could have used to catch up on work, to exercise, to alphabetize my perfume samples… One day I caught myself singing ”Mindfulness Drop-Out” (to the tune of “Beauty School Dropout”) as I multitasked in the kitchen.
While I was not ready or able to tune in to meditation per se, mindfulness gently shaped my attitude and everyday decision-making.
The result? I’ve enjoyed this summer even more than summers past.
Summers are tricky for academics. On the one hand we are off the hook from scheduled tasks, free to stay home and build a work day around other commitments and pleasures. We are nine-month employees. My university will not even spread the nine-month paycheck over the year. That can be a problem for careless budgeters like me, but the lack of paycheck is a happy reminder that we are not expected to grace the threshold of our offices for a few precious months. As an “extreme commuter” (an awful term that I wish did not apply), I’m especially grateful for summer’s vast horizon of unscheduled time. On the other hand, academics usually have a mountain of projects and deadlines to get through in the summer. It’s easy to turn the sizzling days of sun and cicadas into a pressure cooker. Packing for vacation involves selecting which and how much work to bring. Things can get frantic, especially when August comes around.
In May, shortly after the last of my not-so mindful mindfulness classes met, I found myself leaning into slowness little by little. The result has been less time on the internet. More reading and writing, more plays, operas, movies (in actual theaters) , more conversations and dinners with friends. Productive work, blissful play, less stress all round. Let’s see if I can keep this up come September.
How is your summer going? Anyone else slowing down? If you’ve been blogging on a similar wavelength, I hope you’ll include a link with your comments.
Here are few postcards featuring the smells of summer 2013.
In the garden
Well, more like a weed sanctuary. But the peonies and gardenia were ravishing, and now morning glory’s sweet nighttime sister, the mysterious moonflower vine, has taken over.
In the running park
I’ve never been much of an athlete. To wit, my gym teacher warned that if I skipped one more class I would not be allowed to graduate from high school. It was only the horror of spoiling my summer with a make-up PE course that kept me line.
In my mid-twenties I started running and have kept up more or less since. Although I was never a fast runner, I had endurance, and even ran a few marathons. In recent years though, I’ve been less motivated. Part if it is that I’m even slower now than when I was in my prime. This summer I’ve accepted my plodding pace. I may be too antsy for meditation and yoga, but I have the patience to run for hours on end. I know that eventually my body will protest, but for now running is my sanctuary. I look forward to it every day.
In the Library
The structure of the summer involved weeks of travel broken up by weeks of intensive burrowing into into library stacks, borrowed rare books, microfiche, and the archives of my own home office. This is the time of year when stacks of precarious book formations rise like stalagmites from the surface of my desk, each organically composed around a specific project in progress. Ah, the smell of books.
In Prague and thereabouts
I did more reading, writing and talking about perfume than actual sniffing. Highlights included meeting the owner of Senteur des feés, finally testing those Iunx perfumes, (I so love an ingenious sampling apparatus and a smart travel spray design), and chatting with Antonio at Marie Antoinette, one of my favorite perfume spots. Ask Antonio to spritz and tell his story for each Oriza L. Legrand perfumes.
All photos my own.
[Apologies for the edits. Formatting seems to have a mind of its own.]