The Art of Slowing Down14:00

This article is more than 9 years old.

Thanksgiving is over and the dishes are hopefully all put away. But the desire to slow down may be stunted by the lure of Black Friday. Or Cyber Monday. Or all of those emails you need to catch up on.

It's never easy to slow-down, but a new book by Northampton author Christian McEwen says we need to learn how. And now. In "World Enough and Time: On Creativity and Slowing Down," McEwen shares her knowledge, drawing on everything from personal experience to anthropology to social history.



Excerpt: "World Enough and Time: On Creativity and Slowing Down" (PDF)

I grew up in Scotland, in the country, in a big oldfashioned house not far from Edinburgh. It was the
sort of place Americans associate with Brideshead Revisited, or tired reruns of Upstairs, Downstairs; a place of beautiful shabby rooms and scented gardens, a perpetual drone of adult anxiety about school fees and taxes and the latest heating bill. But for the children who lived there—for myself and my brothers and sisters — Marchmont was a kind of paradise. We climbed to the top of the huge Victorian wardrobe, and leapt down, squealing, on the squashy beds. We seized the cushions from the sofa in the music room, and ran and skidded on the polished floor. We threw ourselves at the house with everything we had, meeting it, head-on, with our entire bodies.

Beyond the noise and laughter of each other’s company, the house was cool and shadowy and empty. I spent immense amounts of time alone: hunched in the dark angle of the attic stairs, or mooching dreamily from room to room. There were days when it seemed like a palace in a fairy tale, each piece of furniture trembling with incipient life. I remember the gilded harp in the drawing room, with its strange lamenting face and broken strings, how from the mantelpiece a lovely girl looked out, her long hair swirling into snaky rays. It used to seem only a matter of time before the dolls in the glass cabinet started to talk among themselves, or the dolphins leapt from the backs of the black and gold throne-chairs. Often I felt invisible, even to myself, as if I had drifted out of contemporary chronology altogether, and been reduced to some ethereal essence: a ghost child, some kind of passing spirit.

“Time had no home in me,” wrote the poet Roethke in one of his notebooks. And though my parents had given me a watch for my seventh birthday (sturdy and serviceable, with a pale blue leather strap), time had no home in me either, at least during the holidays. There was breakfast and lunch and tea and supper, all at regular intervals. There was church and tidy clothes and remembering to do your homework. But there was silence too, and solitude, and calm, where clocks and watches mattered not at all: lying in the long grass behind the raspberry canes, listening to the roo-coo of the pigeons, self dissolved in wonder, lost in light.

This program aired on November 25, 2011.