Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Slow the F*k Down

Harvey Road bisects Arden and divides Ardentown from Ardencroft. It starts off as Grubb road and is the main drag that takes folks from Naaman's Road down to Foulk Road, past Marsh Road where it changes names to Harvey, through the Ardens and eventually to I95 or Claymont. In that stretch where it enters the Ardens (you will notice it becoming heavily shaded by trees at this point) the speed limit changes to 25 miles per hour. Almost nobody does the speed limit here. Brooke, the queen of our safety committee lives on Harvey. She and her committee were instrumental in getting one of those light-up signs--the kind that tells you just how fast you are going--along this stretch of road. It helps. It helps me at least. I tend to forget, and it is a reminder. As is Brooke's ascertainment that slowing down here means only a minute of your time. We have only been here for less that two years, and we can attest to the number of accidents along this road in a short time--especially at night.  It's enough to make you want to hire Samuel L. Jackson to do shout-outs to the speeders using the same voice he used to read the satire of a children's book, Go the F*k to Sleep.

"I mean it, sh!thead. Slow the F*k down!" 

I'll get the safety committee right on that.

Everything is about speed in this society. I know people who use to ride bike for exercise around here who won't do it any more. It's too much of a risk with traffic. But it isn't just traffic. Our society wants everything faster. Give us high speed internet, fast food, 7-minute workouts, speed dating, fast-drying nail polish, high-speed rail, faster processors on our already super-fast computers.

In Arden, you are forced to slow down. Even if you are someone who ignores the Harvey Road speed limit signs, if you turn onto one of the winding streets in the Ardens, you will discover that you really can't go the speed limit of 20 miles per hour. The roads just won't let you. They are narrow, in some places only wide enough for one car. We have random speed bumps. It is true that one woman in Arden set up her own speed bump--a line of rocks across her road. She sat to one side of it in a folding chair and watched her handiwork in action. Arden town founders and planners agreed that the roads would not be the direct grids of most great cities. They purposely designed the roads to meander. The walking paths, some hidden and almost secret, are actually the direct paths. They encourage people to walk to their destinations, which is also an intentional slowing of everything save one's heart rate.

Years ago, I was a proponent of the Slow Food Movement. Started in Italy, the group aimed to preserve regionalism  and the old ways of cooking instead of the industrialization and globalization of food. For my part, I believed in the home-cooked supper and the family dinner time. It was sacred to me as my kids were growing up. We rarely ate out. Here in Wilmington, we dine out more often, but we also eat food cooked by our neighbors with our neighbors at long tables of the dinner gild. The local markets know all about the dinner gild and they bend over backwards to get us what we need. The dinners are leisurely, often going late until they morph into another leisurely activity, such as board games or poetry recitations or a concert or teens playing Kan Jam in the parking lot.

Though not a direct Arden activity, we have also benefited from our slow downs on Sunday mornings. Our hiking group goes all over the area. We are almost like those search and rescue teams going over each square mile with a fine tooth comb. While we are hiking we notice everything. If Joe isn't taking a photo of another drop of dew hanging off of some new plant tendril, then Linda is picking up some bone she found to add to her collection of natural objects to draw. She also points out all fungus growing on dead trees. Susie makes art out of natural found materials, so she is always scoping out the stuff at the sides of the trail that nobody else would notice. My slow attention happens as I walk, but also afterwards as I put together the photo albums of photos that the group, and mostly Joe, takes of our wanderings. It is in the making of the albums that I get to see and play with the patterns that emerge from our outings.

Mark and I are considering a vacation later this year to commemorate our twenty-five years of marriage. Those twenty-five years went by so quickly it seems. And the trips we are looking into now are walking trips. We have checked out such trips in places such as Colorado and Wyoming and even as far away as Italy. We have done fast-paced travel, and now we want to see what happens when we explore an area at a crawl. These trips are the kind where you take a small backpack with you, and your luggage gets transported on up ahead. You walk and meander, lunching at a winery perhaps, moving on until you are famished again from your exertion. Then you dine at a local trattoria or share a family style meal with other hikers at a lodge. Nothing is a done deal; we are just in the planning stages. We might even stay home and do a few short outings from here. But we know enough to know that life comes at you fast. If you don't take the time to slow it down, you may miss the whole experience.

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