Even when I’m home alone and the dog is asleep, my house is never truly silent because of the tick … tick … tick of my grandmother’s cuckoo clock, one of the few cherished material items I have from her living years.
As a child, I admired its metronomic pulse, along with the sassy bird that came out every half hour to announce, “ANOTHER HALF HOUR HAS PASSED, PEOPLE!” I loved the cuckoo’s announcement of the hour, which was especially dramatic when it was noon.
As an adult, I appreciate this acoustic reminder that time is passing. In an age when all it takes is a glance at our phones or kitchen appliances to know the time, the cuckoo tells me that time is not merely a lit-up number; indeed, time is life. How we spend our time determines the quality of our days.
It follows reason, then, that we should free up as much of that precious stuff as possible. We should hurry up, be efficient and expedient, and get through the mundane tasks of our days so that we can have time to do all the wonderful nonmundane things we want to do. This is the marketing mantra that gives birth to grocery store home delivery services and fast food chains.
But what if the opposite were true? What if our lives become richer and more meaningful if we weave intentionality and a little nostalgia into our everyday must-dos? What if we decided to s-l-o-w down?
Leaders of the Slow Movement would encourage us to jump on the turtle’s back and take it for a ride. In his book “In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed,” Carl Honoré wrote, “The great benefit of slowing down is reclaiming the time and tranquility to make meaningful connections – with people, with culture, with work, with nature, with our own bodies and minds.”
While I appreciate a good drive-through burger like the next hungry person, I can attest to the fact that my life expands when I’ve decided to slow down the most mundane tasks.
I can buy a loaf of Aunt Millie’s from Kroger, but when I make my own bread from miraculously few ingredients – yeast, water, flour, salt – the result fills me with delicious pride.
I can purchase curtains from TJMaxx, but when I select the fabric and sit down at the sewing machine to hem it into material that will grace my windows, it feels like I am creating art.
I can have vegetables delivered to my doorstep, but when I visit the Farmers’ Market and place money into the same hands that planted the seed, watered and weeded the plant, and harvested my vegetables, something shifts inside of me, drawing me toward community.
I have plenty of company in these s-l-o-w life adventures. One friend builds furniture in his backyard woodworking shed. Another makes his own wine and shrub (a term that sounds like a Monty Python joke but is a vinegar concoction used in mixed drinks).
Yet another friend is embarking on slow fashion, choosing to purchase only well-made items from people getting fair wages. She combats our disposable society by mending things as they wear out, while considering the hands that first created the items for her family.
Indeed, s-l-o-w-ness can give meaning to just about anything: walking, talking, making love … even grief.
My grandmother would be shocked that her slow and simple lifestyle – filled with growing her own food, hanging clothes on the line, grinding her own hamburger, and canning her own pickles and jams – would ever become an alternative, even trendy, way of living. She simply did what she thought she had to do, her timekeeping bird cuckooing off the years until none were left.
Today, as the same cuckoo serenades my own hours, it begs me to consider what I am doing with this wild and precious life and asks me to live with an intentionality that leads to joy. When time stops ticking for me, I’m hopeful someone will find as much meaning in the clock as I did. I’m hopeful it will announce the hours of another life whose time was well spent.
Eileen Button teaches Communication at Mott Community College. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.