If there was a competition for how full you can keep your regular mug of coffee (without a lid) whilst driving, I would be the winner. Through a skillful act of counterbalancing, I can attune the coffee in my cup to the sways of my car, and regularly arrive at work after a fifteen minute journey relatively unscathed by coffee stains. I do have a reusable takeaway cup, though – but I rarely have the spare time in the morning to a) locate it, and b) wash it up (it is currently encrusted with mould from the last time I was feeling practical – a long time ago). By now you can probably guess that I’m the “just-in-time” – veering towards the “tad-late” – type.
But this morning was that morning, the morning where I somehow managed to get to my act – and reusable coffee cup – together. I conquered the clock, a feat I achieved by following three simple measures: laying out my work clothes before I went to bed, setting my alarm clock ten minutes earlier, and washing up my takeaway cup the night before.
Unmarked by the staple coffee spillage, I turned up to work with time to spare. It was remarkable. I could appreciate the sunrise as I journeyed to work, and I even noticed things I had never noticed before, like the cosy pink cottage tucked behind the hedge. As someone who has, on occasion, been attributed the epithet “as tense as a tin man”, I couldn’t help but inwardly remark on the relaxing impact a slower-paced morning had made on me. And this got me thinking: it’s no wonder that the lean towards Slow Living has come about.
Slow Living is essentially about savouring the moment. When we rush from place to place, scroll through hundreds of faces on social media, and work obsessively to get that next pay rise, we are not able to live in – let alone enjoy – the present. Fast-food, instant messaging, next-day delivery, superfast broadband; the 21st century has come to embody everything fast. But people are starting to recognise the benefits of living slowly, of enjoying anticipation and excitement, of appreciating the journey, not just the destination, and tuning into yourself.
There are loads of ways to do this that have already gained huge popularity in Western culture, such as yoga and meditation. But activities like walks and picnics – particularly when they’re combined – are also wonderful ways to slow down and savour the moment, enhanced by their connection with nature and the great outdoors.
Every Wednesday my mother and I look after my sister’s children for the day. Without fail and whatever the weather, we go for a walk and a picnic with the two toddlers. I always make up a batch of smoked salmon sandwiches and roast some sausages in honey and sesame seeds, as requested by my two year old niece. We then bring the pram, find a suitable walk, and amble along, catching the falling leaves and marvelling at the magic of nature. Once we find a suitable pit stop for our picnic, we lay out the picnic blanket, with the addition of cushions and a hot water bottle if it’s winter, and unpack all the much anticipated picnic goodies one-by-one. We huddle together on the picnic blanket and often just sit there, listening to the birds singing, the crashing waves, or the wind billowing through the leaves.
It’s this kind of day, away from technology and the noise of everyday life, that provides precious moments between family, friends or partners and fertile ground for memory-making. It’s also a chance to enjoy the outdoors, particularly in the winter when we can all too easily stay cooped up inside, becoming distanced from nature.
So make some space in your busy schedule, pack up your picnic basket and head out to your favourite picnicking destination – or explore new areas if you’re feeling adventurous. I cannot emphasis enough the soothing, healing properties of winter walks and picnics. They offer the chance to connect with nature and with the people you love, two incredible benefits of living at a slower pace.