In recent weeks, I’ve been feeling like the work in our new house has been going so very slow. We are working our way from the outside in, getting the things that require pleasant weather to be done first. So we’re repairing our front stoop and walkway and putting in a patio in the space between our garage and our house. I’m impatient to see all my romantic visions come to fruition. I want to see my cutting garden in full bloom, our kitchen garden groaning with produce, the raised bed built for our herb garden, and our outdoor dining room ready for me to set the table. I want the garage scraped and painted, the back porch scraped and painted too, and the endless weeds and invasive plants we’ve found to go away. Opposed to using any pesticides at all, figuring out eco-friendly ways to solve these problems takes research and is a more time-consuming process.
There always seems to be something that interrupts the flow; life things. Funerals and wakes, Japanese Knotweed and other invasive plants that seem to love our property, tropical storms that require the slope at the edge of the yard to be shored up. There are good things too; a visit to the farm my godson works on, a trip to Legoland with my daughter and granddaughter, walks to the Farmer’s Market, visits to my mom, seeing other family members, a drive to a farm to pick blueberries and fill a bucket with summer flowers of every shape and hue.
So we got a little momentum going and found a wonderful mason to work on the front. The original plan we had in mind; a humble brick and concrete design made lovely through half-moon shaped stairs had to be scrapped for a variety of reasons including dealing with the arduous process of getting a permit because we were changing the structure and our idea would cost three times more than what we ended up with. Our mason suggested an alternative that referenced the original design showing his creativity and pragmatic nature, allowing us to remain within the parameters of what is not an unlimited budget given all the things we want to do. Without getting into details, the design change threw me off base. I was in a hurry to re-adjust so the work could proceed and I made a choice of paving stone that now I’m not happy with. Calvin, however, loves it, so I have the comfort of that at least. Our original plan had been to put in the patio base for the outdoor dining area ourselves, all the materials ordered, delivered, and sitting in our driveway waiting for us to start. During the work on the front, we decided in an urge to hurry things up to ask our mason to do that too, which he did; beautifully and economically. In our rush to finish the front and check one completed project off our list, we ordered wrought-iron railings that we later found out were not up to code and didn’t fit the space we needed it to (and by the way not returnable). So we did what we should have done if we weren’t in such a hurry and had someone who knew what they were doing to come and figure out what we needed. We are complete novices despite our age when it comes to homeownership, what permits are needed for what, and how to interpret our city’s building code.
The moral of the story, of course, is that trying to do things too fast causes mistakes to happen, some of which end up costing you in the end. I’ve been wondering why this sudden urge to get it done has overtaken me when before I was feeling so content to just let it evolve and happen slowly and organically, as we had planned. In the last month, I’ve been to a few funerals and I think that’s creating some underlying sense of urgency. All the sadness of the world and national political events, the resurgence of the Great Interrupter, the extreme weather and fires reminding us of climate change, and the risk to human life have overwhelmed me and reminded me of the fragility of life. I’ve not wanted to dress up or taking photos of myself to post on social media, focusing much of my attention on the house and writing. While these events are urgent, the biggest thing I learned during the quarantine was that living slowly and in the moment is the best and only way to access the simple pleasures and joy life brings alongside sadness and loss. Death is a part of life as much as being born is. When it decides to come is not really in our control so trying to cram as much living in simply because you are old is not a justifiable reason to do so and rather futile at that. Rushing to be productive, profitable, and politically popular without thought or care is what has created so many of these problems that so trouble me now. It is abundantly clear that rushing is no longer an option for how I want to live my life. So I had a bit of falling off the “slow” wagon but now I’m ready to jump back on and forgiving myself for making mistakes because they reminded me of something I needed to know.
So I’m going to hurry up and slow down; feel the soil and the texture of the plants as my fingers pull those pesky weeds, take my time to arrange some flowers, howl at the moon, cook a slow simmering meal and give Calvin a kiss when he comes in the door tonight instead of asking him about how many things he checked off our to-do list or rush to tell him about what I checked off mine.
What “haste makes waste” lessons have you learned?
I would love o see some photos of your house while it is in the process of ‘becoming’. I went to Grad School in Historic Preservation and always love to see an older house come alive. If you have a chance and the inclination…post some!!
Look into a company named Harris and select their 30% Vinegar product with a sprayer (finest I’ve ever found) and spray your weeds with it on a nice sunny, clear day. DO NOT INGEST!!! Your weeds will die. They still need to be pulled . . . though that’s a parameter of gardening. Blessings. p.s. please do not use any of the products linked to cancer . . . and keep in mind, our loved critters are walking on the ground sprayed with those dangerous products. We have shoes!
Absolutely doing only organic and natural so thanks for the tip. So many people said the only way to deal with the Knotweed is that awful pesticide so we are smothering under a big black tarp instead.
I have learned to reassess life; to engineer my mind to look my future as a start … not because I have lost, but because I have far more potential now that my finances are firm; that I understand my health; and because my children no longer live with me. I am in Genesis, and that is a priviledged place to be
Indeed it is.
When I was in my twenties, a fun day consisted of cramming as many activities as I could into a 24 hour period. The more, the better. I was single, had my career, and my social time was filled to the brim with people and places. Fast forward 40 years and I am content and grateful for the way my life has unfolded. At 63, I am grateful for my bike rides and yoga. I am thankful that I am active and healthy. I am grateful for my husband and sons as well as extended family and friends. My home, vehicles, finances are blessings in my life. I no longer need the frenzied pace of my youth. I have “geared down”. Hurry up and slow down is a great mantra. I enjoy meditation most days. I enjoy time spent with family. I enjoy travel. I am thankful for a comfortable bed at night. Simple pleasures. I am content. The best things in life aren’t things. Life is the journey. Savoring time and the journey is now my goal.
So many gems in this comment I can’t even count them.
I too am craving a slower pace, but interesting at the same time. Just don’t know how to make that happen yet! And yes I am very familiar with haste making waste…I have noticed it more in my cooking in that when I don’t allow myself to enjoy the process and rush out of impatience, time pressures or sheer exhaustion the meal is not delicious, and at times not worthy of making it to the plate…waste at its peak.
Love the sound of your life.
We all seem to be in a similar process, knowing that we want things to be different just not sure of the shape just yet.
Excellent food for thought. Thank you for your keen insight.
In my case, I’ve actually struggled with the opposite problem—discovering that my lack of haste has created some waste. In the span of 3 years, I have relocated to an unfamiliar/small town, relinquished a beloved teaching career, provided care for two ill, elderly parents, endured their deaths two months apart, and at the moment I was re-starting my life, became sidelined with the pandemic and a devastating health diagnosis. Initially, I viewed quarantine as a time for restoration, self care, and an opportunity to tackle many personal and home projects I shelved for so long. As the isolation stretched on, however, I found myself in a type of stasis—a complete lack of energy, will, and motivation to do even the simplest of tasks. The enormity of all my unfinished projects overwhelmed me. Truthfully, it still does. The emotional toll this pandemic has exacted on all of us is profound—and perhaps woefully underestimated. In my case, I’ve come to accept that my span and quality of life will be less than I anticipated, so I feel urgency to “gather ye rosebuds” (to borrow a line from Herrick) while I still have time, mobility, and resources to do so. I feel I’ve wasted so much of the past 18 months that I’m now in haste to launch out of my inertia. Easier said than done, of course—especially in this moment.
While my experience deviates from yours, perhaps the parallel is that we’ve both recognized the missed opportunities and unexamined beauty in our current state of being. Here’s to our attempt to both seize the day AND slow down enough to treasure it. Cheers!
It sounds to me like you went through the process you absolutely needed to go through and that many are experiencing. I posted a quote I saw on Instagram. “I feel like I want to do everything and nothing.” What your feeling seems to be a common state right now.
So absolutely true and spoke directly to me as I am pondering over and over how I would like to renovate the front part of our home including some kind of surfacing of a dirt circular drive in area to the front door and garage and also some fabulous sprayed on design.picture.symbology on the three entrances to the garage. I love the creative possibilities and also get anxious to see it done. Your message has reminded me of the same lesson you noticed! Thank you for beautiful descriptions of life.
That sounds so imaginative and creative, love it.
The best piece of advice I received after moving to a new home was to live in it for a year before doing major projects. It is hard to be patient with the excitement of moving to a new home…. But it really helps to”live in” the new place and see how you will move around in it.
This is excellent advice. We’ve been working from the outside in for that reason.
This was a beautiful post! We can all learn to hurry up and slow down.
Thanks so much.
Lyn, your words are so wise a d well said. Resonating.
Lynn, I am so full of love, Love these days, that it would be a shame not to share some of it with you. I love you. Not to worry; I’m not a creepy stalker or anything similar. I’m just in a bit of a luminous phase, and grateful beyond words. Love.
Really enjoy your blogs. Thank you for keeping me company with your take on life.
Thank you for being here.
And I accept them with gratitute.
Well Lyn I am sure so many of us can relate to your “haste” as life does not fit in with our plans does it? I think Covid has proved that. I smiled when reading your good things- enjoying your family, picking blueberries and filling a bucket with summer flowers – beautiful image. I was almost out of breath recognizing the state of flux you were in trying to do everything.
That haste makes waste – unfortunately still getting tripped up by this- too numerous to list!! The latest in rushing to finish knitting a cardigan and sewing it up only to realise there was an error in the pattern – but as I slowly unpick it I can smile at myself as now I have a much harder task in completing it. A lesson learned.
I am also learning not to be too hard on myself when I keep on making the mistake of not living in the moment but trying to fit in too much and also be truly honest in checking that I am not trying to impress others that at 77 I can still do it all.
Thanks again Lyn for your honesty and wisdom – enjoy your beautiful home
Thank you for sharing your reflections here. I can see you sitting in a comfortable chair getting into the rhythm of unpicking.
A traves de estas reflexiones, he comprendido que la vida a la edad que tenemos, debe ser como decimos aqui: “despacio y buena letra”.
SE FELIZ Y ADELANTE.
Last summer I had the gift of a paid sabbatical from my job so I could “rehearse” retirement. One of the principles I found for living what my friend Elizabeth White (55 and Faking Normal) calls “a rich and textured life” was slow living. I was also influenced by your blogpost on slowing down. Thanks for the reminder. As I head into the homestretch of leaving FTE, I am eager to get back to true slow living, but I also realize I need to live that way now.
I love that idea, retirement rehearsal.
Same, same … just yesterday, I suggested we skip buying new doors this year and only renovate the ugly stairs and build a bookshelf and that is all. It will still be a lot of work and money, but after that, it’s high time to really slow down and really spend some real time with the real each other 🙂 Just like you, there are deaths and cancer cases haunting me in the early hours, if I am awake. And while renovating really is fun, living in a house you do not like yet has its drawbacks, too (we call our greenish-gray carpet floor Pukey – I think that says it all). I have learned to change a few simple things and make them more appealing just to be more satisfied and it often works.
One of the best sources of pleasure these days are audio books 🙂 Been listening to the Pillars of Earth most nights and find that (having to think of other, nonexistent people’s problems 😉 ) very relaxing!
(Just in case: in some places in Germany, they cover the ground with the remnants of the Japanese Knotweed with black foil, which is left there for 2 years (if I remember correctly). It would seem it needs to be really quashed in its effort to grow again from the tiniest bits left in the soil.)
Thanks for th tip about the knotweed. We have a big black tarp on the piece of land closest to our back lawn. But I never heard the black foil one. Yes I too am learning how to do just enought.
I love your texts
Thanks for letting me know that.
Those are the words of a wise woman!
Sometimes something as simple as a bouquet of flowers in one of my favorite vases invites me to sit down and breath. The one thing Covid gave me was an appreciation of slow, one I quickly lost as activities came rushing in post-vaccination. I stopped one day last week and suddenly remembered how good slow felt. It was the flowers that prompted it. Now they are my regular reminder to savor the moment, the rest of life will wait.
Good morning. I have had success killing weeds with a mixture of 1 gal. of vinegar + 2 Cups of Epsom Salts + 1/4 C. BLUE Dawn liquid dishwashing liquid. I am in East Central Indiana and we too long for abundant produce. Unfortunately latitudes and latitudes and are growing season is not what we would like. I am right ow in the middle of a hugely successful tomato season…but..they only started ripening the very last of Aug. and are winding down now as the sun moves south. I planted 50 tomato plants and had great success with all. My peppes and zucchinis were not at productive as in the past but that’s okay…other people had better luck. Sweet corn ws phenmenal but it too is on the way out. And even with my experience as a gardener I forgot to plant my onion sets…oh well…there are so many farm stands along the roads near my farm so I will survive. ( I owe my vegetable gardening success to my grandmother’s chicken yard…which I now plant veg. on. I also had a success crop of peonies, and day lillies and the allium plant called “naked ladies” around here. She would have planted them in the 1920s so I feel very blessed. God bless and take care.
Anxious to get my garden ready for planting, I ordered “rotted cow manure” not knowing the size or shape of a “quarter truckload.” It was free. It was also a lot. A Pike’s Peak of manure and far too much for my little garden spot. I used what I needed and the remaining pile looked like it had not been touched. It also drew interest and bad jokes from my neighbors who helped by taking a bucket or two for their own gardens. I begged them to take more. They promised they would but didn’t. I put out a call to friends with gardens. One came with his pick-up truck, another with a wheelbarrow and another with a “container” the size of a teacup. The pile was still there mocking me. A new strategy was needed so I placed a classified ad in the local weekly newspaper. It worked. In the end, I was left with a less overwhelming amount. The funny thing is I can’t remember what happened to the rest. It was many years ago. It was gone when I moved to a smaller place years later. My friends and many of my old neighbors are gone too but we did share a good laugh or two when we would get together and the conversation invariably landed on “Remember the time you got all that cow manure and . . . ” Haste makes waste, that’s for sure. But it often makes a good story later. The moral is “never order a quarter of a truckload of anthing without asking the size of the truck.
I am learning the same lessons noe as my husband and I undertake a full renovation of our 30-year-old studio. We have hired a pro who goes slow and have largely met her pace. We have recently felt frustrated by what seem to be rookie mistakes or a matter of poor listening skills, implied vs explicit communication. A stricter lockdown in Manila has forced us to stop construction for most of the month, which will net us more expenses in our temporary rental. So your piece gives me peace that we are correct in plodding along despite the delays, that we will make the right decisions in good time. Thank you.
I completely understand! And when it’s worth doing it’s worth the time.
We also moved to a big farm in Charlottesville, Virginia from Madison, CT. We only have 9 1/2 acres-very small compared to many of our friends and the work is never ending. We also have two horses and a mule, 18 hens and 3 dogs and a cottage which we Airbnb. I have my own business and my husband has his, two kids in college and one in DC. There are many nights when I come in from feeding animals, tucking in the hens along with the horses and Burrito the mini-mule and watering new trees I just had to plant- there are at least 22 and ask myself what have I done? I am the one that wanted the farm life, but grew up with Martha Stewart in my head- then there were those damn Pottery Barn of perfection catalogs my friends and I as young mothers strove to emulate. Fast forward to last month when my 19 year old son mistakenly put weed killer on the entire front lawn and part of the back, did I mention someone’s going to be getting married on that front lawn on 25 September? But what can I do but scratch up the dead grass put down the seed, water that too and pray it grows. Oh, and keep the hens off of it! Your point of hurrying up and slowing down is a wonderful reminder to do just that. We have our health, we have are beautiful animals. We also have beautiful children that we’ve raised and they are all doing really well. Much to be thankful for indeed!
It sounds like a wonderful life to me and I have no doubt the wedding will be glorious!
As a New Yorker all the hustle and bustle always seemed very normal to me. Since Covid and working from home I realize how insane of a lifestyle we had. Running to catch a train, commuting in all kinds of snowstorms, blackouts, 9/11, and every other insane thing that happened in NYC. I know for certain I never want to live like that again. I have also hurried up to slow down!
Yes indeed! I was back in the city this week and everyone was starting up the rush again, not for me!
Oh, how I love your posts and their ability to make me think on things. ! Of course, I love your fashion as well, but it’s so good to hear about the life lessons you are learning as you get older. You are truly inspirational.
Thank you, somehow that feels more important to me than fashion. COVID priority shift.
I understand the sense of urgency! My husband and I are remodeling for the first time. I do not know if it is Covid , etc. we realized life is precious and not as eternal as we thought but we need to savor the day !
Patience is a virtue I am ALWAYS working on.
You are not alone!
While there are fewer days in front of us than behind the constant bombardment of the media during Covid – over 65, over 65 – made us aware every day that we are not only vulnerable but the clock is ticking and we are on the short list. Loss of friends adds to the anxiety. I never really thought about dying and unfinished business until the Pandemic. Now those thoughts creep in frequently.
It’s no wonder we feel compelled to hurry up and get things done -tick tock, tick tock. We can’t control some things but we can control how they affect us.
Your advice to slow down is well taken. Thank you.
Yes, the messaging around COVID was so poorly done as there is a vast difference among those who are 65 and above. For those of us lucky enough to be healthy and fit, we were at no greater risk than those younger. This week I lost a cousin 20 years younger than me to COVID. I want to get back to not being afraid so I can savor each day.
During the isolation I started a list of house projects. Now my contractor has time to work on them and I am anxious to cross all off my list. But, things never go as planned, and a new toilet handle mechanism for a 15 year old toilet turned into buying a new toilet. I’ve learned to be patient, and am lucky to have a contractor who is able to see my projects thru to happy completion.
Renovations these days very much require patience. Our pergola was supposed to be delivered on three different days so far and still we don’t know for sure when it will appear!
I lately find myself slowing down not out of want but necessity. At 73 the arthritis I’ve had for the past 50 years is catching up with me. Being diagnosed at a young age I feared I would end up in a wheelchair like my best friends mother. Thankfully , so far I have escaped that. Over the years I was able to backpack up the five highest peaks in the Adirondack Mountains and hike many beautiful trails in Yellowstone, Glacier, Grand Canyon, and other National Parks. I feel fortunate that my legs carried me that far.
I have always had a large vegetable garden and enjoy growing all my own potatoes, garlic, onions, tomatoes, asparagus, herbs etc. etc . The weeds here are relentless and the heat and humidity bother me more than ever these days. I find myself taking a lot more breaks, heading into the air conditioning to put my feet up and cool off. I don’t like that ! I used to work from dawn to dusk. I lately find myself thinking how much easier it would be to just buy everything at the farmers market, but then I would miss the joy of walking out to the garden, finding what is ripe for the picking and figuring out what I can make for dinner with it. There will come a time when I have to give it up but I’m not quite ready yet ! I’ll just slow down.
I find the same. Mowing the lawn with a hand mower requires several breaks into the house with large glasses of water, but the point is we can still do it, it just means being slow.
I think this last almost two years (starting to lose track of time) has really changed my perspective of life and what’s really important. I love visiting my Granddaughters! While I used to aimlessly go onto a store with no plan, I now only want to get in and get out. Of course being a year or two older may have had something to do with it. I almost felt like time was standing still. A very strange feeling. Reading about your projects; they must give you a sense of purpose and of course wanting to see the end result. I hope you enjoy the process and would like to see pictures!
When I am not rushing and taking my time, I do. After three tries I finally found the perfect paint color for my garage and spent all of yesterday painting it slowly and carefully.
Another blog that makes me say hmmmmm. How do I apply the thoughts in my own life? Thank you for making me stop and ponder, I love it.
Thanks for taking the time to comment, I appreciate every one.
I’m glad you included your reflections on mortality’s role in life’s big picture. I wish that were a more comfortable topic of conversation–at least in my (limited) circle, it’s considered a subject from which to flee. But I feel the tension too, between where I’ve been and where I’m headed and, as you say, urgency likes to weasel itself right alongside the knowledge that a particular timeline forward is statistically shorter than the one already danced upon. I haven’t quite figured out why this manifests so obviously in hardscape construction, but it surely does. If it weren’t for the rational voices of my daughter and her husband (ironically, both artisans, both DIY), to whom we’ve rented our new/old farmhouse up in Accord, NY, I’d have already contracted for the wide porch addition along the front and the organically shaped flagstone patio to the side. What’s the rush to rock in the chair and lounge on the patio? Well, I think it’s a cup of uncertainty of a stage in life compounded by gallons of local and world uncertainty. Just as you say. Getting okay with the “may never enjoy the porch or the patio” and doing it anyway may be the work–so I’m not sure I’d call your particular experience a “falling off” or a “mistake,” as much as a feeling your way forward as to where all the puzzle pieces fit together. Getting older is not for sissies. As for me, I’ve managed to lower my porch/patio construction temperature by focusing on creating a series of pollinator pathway gardens at the new/old house. They’re now abuzz with bird, bee, and butterfly life (the kids are kind enough to send pictures and videos in between our visits). Bearing witness to this–and especially to the abundant crop of monarch caterpillars–has offered quietude by grounding me in the natural life cycle, somehow making it feel safer. I am not from a culture that makes life transitions feel safe. Yours was an intriguing read, as always, and I look forward to more thoughts on achieving balance between the yin and yang of hurrying up and slowing down.
A lovely narrative giving me a new way to think about my “mistakes” thank you.
The time spent in isolation has allowed me to slow down and evaluate what is important and what is not needed in my life. We reorganized a bit, cleaned out closets, and when we ran out of jigsaw puzzles I took up watercolor. The pursuit of watercolor painting is teaching me patience as I experiment with the medium and grow in my pursuit of creativity. I am always in a hurry with a list of things to do. Learning and watercolor does not allow rushing. Once I slowed down, I found I could paint a bit and leave it to dry while I did something else. I would return later and add a bit and see the image improve. I have watched each creation morph and shine in it own right and I am amazed. Enjoy getting to know the house and the garden. I am learning life is sometimes fast, sometimes slow, often messy, but in the end it will work out. You will be content.
A lovely description of the process of creation. Nothing I ever do in a rush turns out well.
Thank you for sharing your lessons learned. A while back, I recall that in one of your blog posts you mentioned the work that you and Calvin planned to do on your newly acquired home. At the time, I thought, wow they are ambitious and courageous DIYers.
Other than gardening, I am not a DIYER. I owned a three bedroom house for some years and grew tired of taking on all the things that did not come naturally to me and I felt like those responsibilities were sabotaging the time that I wanted to spend on other pursuits. Eventually, I hired service providers to do the things I did not want to do.
As a single woman with no children, I began to question why I had a home where I did not use all the available space, nor host any visitors. Four years ago, at age 59, I sold my house and bought a one bedroom condominium. Interestingly, my condo is 120 square feet larger than the house, but I use all the rooms and spaces. I recognize that your situation is different. You are coupled and you have offspring, grandchildren and other family members. Good on you for listening to your inner voice and slowing down. Slow and steady wins the race. I have no doubt that your house will be, in due time, exactly what you imagine it to be.
Thank you and thanks for sharing your story about finding the beat place for you to live given who you are.
You’ve certainly tapped into how many of us are feeling right now. After eighteen months of shielding (as we call it the the UK) with my partner who is very vulnerable to Covid I’ve learned a lot. One of our responses was to create a website we called Riversmeet put some of our cultural work online. We set up some Slow Reading courses so that my partner could teach the books he had always wanted to teach and give each one the time it deserves starting with works by James Joyce and Virginia Woolf. Then I invited friends who have something to say on culture to write guest blogs on topics that they are ruminating on at present, we have made short films, published poetry and had a lot of fun. All by slowing down!!
I’ve sent you a message with the website address in case you would like to look as I wasn’t sure if it was appropriate to do that in a comment.
I would absolutely love that. How imaginative and inspiring. I could spend a year with Virginia Woolfe.