“Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day.” ~ A.A. Milne, Winne the Pooh
There’s a poem that I heard yesterday called Hurry. It’s written by the poet, Marie Howe. The first line begins with the writer running errands with her daughter. From one place to the next, she is telling her daughter to hurry, hurry up, as her daughter trails behind her. Halfway through the short poem, as a mother, she reflects
Where do I want her to hurry to? To her grave?
To mine? Where one day she might stand all grown?
It’s true. Where is it that we are going so fast?
While it’s the first time that I heard this poem read aloud, it’s not the first time that I’ve seen it. I first read it when I was pregnant with my son. I’m surprised I remember the poem from 7 years ago as I didn’t think it had an impact on me. But now I remember thinking, I won’t be that kind of parent. The kind of parent, or person even, that rushes through everything. The first time that I read it was one of the few times in my life I wanted things to slow down. Then, I did recite incantations to my son but it was more along the lines of ‘take your time’ and ‘we’re going to be okay’. I said these things over and over like spells I was trying to cast over both of our lives.
Yesterday, I heard the poem differently. Yesterday, I walked my son to school, him pushing a rattling plastic garbage truck along the side walk, careening it into the ditch, splashing through puddles of water and me calling back to him ‘let’s go, c’mon, we’re going to be late!’. I saw myself doing it too. Being impatient. So sometimes I would stop and pretend to be patient as I waited for him to catch up.
When I dropped him off and began walking home, I had the same urgency as when I had not wanted my son to be late for school. And, it goes on. I often have the same impulse on the weekend when all we are required to do is walk the dog. When I am doing dishes so that I can make his lunch so that I can go to sleep so that I can get up and repeat. This hurrying is a disease and as long as we’re hurrying we will never really get there. We all know this, no? We have listened to parables of this since our childhood. The Tortoise and the Hare. The perpetually late Mad Hatter who by rushing is driving himself mad. Why do we still forget and insist on hurrying?
Most of the time we don’t really know where we are hurrying to. It is this state, not the place we are going that persists and feeds off itself. As Howe alludes, the end destination for all of us, at least in this lifetime, is death. Reminding ourselves of this is fodder to slow down, to be present, which sometimes works.
Time is useful too. I mean, how would we ever meet up with anyone if there was not a shared time? Deadlines are important. Productivity, when pointed in the right direction, is satisfying and fulfilling. But, what would we gain if we were all encouraged to slow down sometimes?
In the one of Mary Oliver’s always beautiful poems, Leaves and Blossoms Along the Way, she says
For how many years did I wander slowly
through the forest.
What wonder and
glory I would have missed had I ever been
in a hurry!
This morning when we began to walk to school, I resolved myself to wander and take our time. I’ll go at his pace, I thought. Realistically, judging from yesterday, my pace would only get us there about a minute faster. It is more settling the internal state of gripping and tensing in order to hurry and go, more focused on getting there rather than the actual walk.
My son, however, was in a different mood. He wanted to race to every corner so that the whole way to school was a sprint. He had just as much fun as the day before when he was meandering and moving slowly. So, I ran too knowing that moving quickly doesn’t always mean that we have to hurry.