This morning I woke up in Abilene's Victorian Inn. Our host, Adrian Potter, a certified chef, informed us breakfast was served at 9:30, and I did not want to be late. Adrian is the kind of chef who makes her own granola and dreams of mushroom sauce over a bacon-wrapped filet. Anticipation of the meal was alarm enough for us. Just after 9:30, we creaked down the winding, wood staircase toward the dining room. We waited for Adrian in the sitting room, amusing ourselves with World War II-era issues of Life Magazine. Soon Adrian glided through the dining room to announce breakfast. We followed her to a neat, square table set for four. A couple in their fifties sat across from us. I wasn't looking forward to the forced interaction with strangers, but I figured I could survive half an hour.
The couple appeared Midwestern and simple, the woman wearing a gray, henley top to match her bobbed hair. They seemed friendly enough. Soon breakfast began with a yogurt parfait, a swirl of fruit atop a stack of yogurt and granola. The woman in gray hushed her husband so as to concentrate on her food, letting it dance through her mouth. Adrian returned to inquire on her creation, and clasped her hands together as the gray-haired lady gushed that her mouth was bursting with flavor. She spooned each bite toward her mouth slowly, losing herself in the layers of taste. I watched with amazement. I could have said, "I'll have what she's having," but I was eating the same thing. But, somehow, I didn't get it. Yet. After a few moments though, I realized her secret. Slowness. Awareness.
I am not a slow eater. I am a functional eater. I am most likely to be found snacking throughout the day because I am bored or slurping up a canned soup around noon because this is the time everyone else eats. Somewhere deep in the hallways of my brain, I know that food is to be enjoyed...slowly. But I only have half an hour for lunch every day. How am I supposed to make friends with my diet in 30 minutes?
I wanted to enjoy my breakfast like the lady in gray. I wanted to get so distracted with flavor that I had to tell the room to be quiet so I could hear it all. So when Adrian brought out platters of Swedish lemon pancakes topped with sweet cream and berries, I finally listened. I felt the slippery, sweet texture, watched the colors of taste paint smooth strokes in my mouth. This time when Adrian asked, "How is it?", I answered without thinking, "It's a meditation." She hadn't heard that one before. But a meditation it was. It required focus, a fixed gaze. Removing distractions.
I felt my belly fill with the rich goodness in a matter of minutes. I wasn't sure I would be able to finish. But I wanted to. My usual eating habits involve a vacuum-like motion of inhalation, food drawn inward through one distracted breath. Then it is gone. The flavor, the sweetness, the experience over, sitting in an anxious heap in my stomach, waiting for digestion. A waste.
From my brief experience with slowness, I can see that beauty is best viewed under five miles an hour. You hear more, taste more, see more, feel more, smell more. I miss so much by rushing, scurrying about, afraid of missing something and in the end, missing everything. Living slowly is an art. Some of us are born with the skill; others have to practice. When I divulged this revelation to my husband, he didn't catch its novelty. He already lives the slow life, breathes from his belly and listens more than he speaks. I wonder when it will rub off on me.
I want to live more deliberately, patiently, gently. I want to enjoy my food and relationships, even my lunch times, brief as the moments may be. I want to be present, to taste and see. My theory is that the people who live this way, who taste and hear and touch life, really sink their teeth and toes all the way in, these are the healthy, happy ones. I want a good relationship with my food and the other necessities of life. My goal is to be to intentional from this day forward, to slow down, look people in the eye, hold doors open, and watch the sun go all the way down without checking my Blackberry. I'm going to drink tea not just to have something warm between my hands, but to taste it, savor it. I'm going to try slanting my perspective a little more toward life's original idea, a time when two people lived in a lush garden between two rivers. They ate whatever they wanted and lived at peace with each other, the earth and with God. Sounds like Life to me.
Synonyms for slow: Unhurried, deliberate, measured, leisurely