Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly. — Proverb
What is lost in our fast-paced society is depth. What is lost is not only the chance to reflect on our stories, but even the thought that we should want to reflect on them. In turn, what is lost is wisdom. Earnie Carson
A few days earlier, my husband Cam and I had spent New Year’s Eve jammed among the crowds, cheering with what seemed like the whole world as that iconic Parisian tower lit up like a sparkler at midnight. And now, here we were on the fast train — the TGV from Paris to Nice, headed south to the sun and the sea and the romance of the La Cote d’ Azur. It felt good to be on the fast train. It felt good to charge ahead with a momentum that would carry us forward to our destination in a mere matter of hours. And, as we peered out the window, we glimpsed the French countryside: the farmlands, the hills, a river, a village with a stone church . . . . It was the fast-track, for sure, and yet the view was still fine and we were satisfied. And then, in the distance, there they were, the Alps. And as we whizzed by them, we could almost feel ourselves reaching out of that fast train’s sleek picture window and grabbing a hold of those snow-capped peaks. We could almost feel ourselves jumping off and savoring a slow moment. You see, we knew the Alps; we knew them intimately.
Just six months earlier, we had walked miles through those mountain valleys and up the winding roads to summits. It was in Barcelona that we had rented the compact-style Euro motorhome, then traced the coast of Spain and France on our way to the mountain stages of Le Tour de France. And it was on a mountainside on the Col d’ Galibier where the narrow road widened slightly that we parked our home-on-wheels for more than three days, and our feet became our transportation. When you slow down to foot speed, your little patch of world expands and you become friends, not only with your neighbors in their compact-style Euro motorhomes, but also with the cows and their tinkling bells who live in the valley below and with the restaurant where you eat as one big family at a common table. You become intimate with the pavement below your feet as you climb up up up the mountain pass to the most gorgeous view you’ve ever seen of snowy jagged peaks that reach into the heavens. And you become intimate, too, with the short-cut down, on a path where your feet carefully navigate the loose rocks and step nimbly over logs and across river beds, where your mind presses into memory those purple wildflowers growing along side the trail, and your breath becomes a song floating through this fresh clear mountain air. Yes, there is something delicious in the slowing down.
And that is what I have been telling myself this autumn, that there is something delicious in the slowing down. I had been riding life’s fast train for some time, squeezing trips to visit family and friends on the east coast and on the west coast into a packed schedule at home where a creativity center under my tutelage was rollicking with activity most days a week. For a long time, I enjoyed the view from the fast train’s window; it was colorful and exciting and my energy felt in sync with its speed. Until it didn’t anymore. And I’m not exactly sure when the shift happened, when something within me wanted a pause, when the train ride began to feel clunky and out of whack. So this autumn, when a medical challenge brought the train that was already feeling clunky to a halt, it offered me the opportunity to step right off the the train’s fast track and take a deep breath. And you know what? I have discovered that a deep breath is a song for body and spirit not only in the French Alps, but also at home in your very own room. And I have unwrapped the gifts that only can come when you stop the train all together. There is the gift of a cat, a fluffy white not-so-young-cat-anymore, who is more than willing willing to cuddle if you just take the time. And there is a husband who you have always loved but you now appreciate beyond measure. And there are the trees, the shocking red-leafed maple beside the gleaming white-barked birch in your own backyard. And there are the slow walks, as your back heals, step after grateful step, on trails through these autumnal woods where the colors are more brilliant than you remember from the fast train’s window. And there is your own mind and your own spirit and your own body’s wisdom, and, it is in the slow, the savory that this wisdom arises. Yes, it is good sometimes, to step off the track and just be.
Cam and I didn’t stay stopped on our little patch of mountain road in the magnificent Alps forever. On Day Four, we packed up, set off again in our compact-style Euro motorhome on our Adventure de Le Tour. There were salt marshes along the coast and lavender fields inland. There was a castle and a narrow one-and-a-half-lane road with no guard rail and drop-off edges that a motorhome, even a compact one, had no business exploring. There were sunflowers and sunflower-sunsets. And it felt good to be moving again, to be picking up speed, to be taking in new sights. And it is like that after this autumnal pause as well. I feel myself growing antsy, wanting to move again, hungry for something new. And that’s the beauty of stepping off a train. You are free to choose what to do next. Maybe you don’t want to get back on the fast train, the one that felt so right to you for such a long time. Maybe it is a different train that is appealing to you, moving in a new direction. And who says it has to be train that you choose as your metaphoric vehicle? Maybe you’re remembering just how fun it is to travel in one of those compact-style Euro motorhomes. The choice is yours!!!