If you follow me on instagram, you might have seen pictures of a chairlift at the top of a mountain that was conveniently stopped at the end of ski season so I could hop up and read and write all day from a high, scenic perch. The book I chose for a weekend away was “Slow Time,” by Waverly Fitzgerald. This is also my first book report in a long time, so I’m trying to remember what high school Kathryn used to do.
The subtitle of this book is “Recovering the Natural Rhythm of Life,” and it’s a wonderfully therapeutic and paradigm-shifting book if you find yourself overwhelmed, stressed, rushed, or otherwise deprived of time in your day to day life.
The book is divided into twelve sections, well, “twelve weeks and each week focuses on a different unit of time, from the minute, through hours, days, weeks, moons, months, seasons, years, and finally a lifetime.” Fitzgerald gives you plenty to consider when it comes to your relationship to these time units, and also some homework, or “Time Play” with which to experiment.
I originally read about this book through Havi and her project of naming the moons. The first few times I tried to read Slow Time, however, I’d try to follow along with the exercises before having read the whole book, and it was hard to keep my interest. Reading everything first, without pressuring myself to do anything with the information, allowed the concepts I needed to come forward, and gave me more space to let what isn’t for me go.
I’ve included a play by play of the weeks below, which got longer than I anticipated, so you don’t have to read them. To quote the author, “I always applaud when my students tell me they’ve decided to skip the homework. Your time is your life and it’s your choice how to spend it.” Finally, a teacher who gets it!
I’m thinking of doing some of these time play exercises each month, and take a year to delve a little deeper into these concepts. Would anyone be interested in joining me? If we have enough people it might be worth making a facebook group, but it might just be me posting once a month about what I’m working on. Let me know what you think.
Elaborates on humans’ relationship with time throughout the ages: from a nomadic, hunger-gatherer lifestyle, to pastoral, and the Industrial Revolution. “As the nature of the work changed, so did our relationship with time.” Observing the cultural relationship with time also gives us space to look at our personal relationship with time and beliefs about time, which were more than likely shaped by our childhood experience.
If you were to list units of time, all the ones you could think of, what would you name? Probably seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, pay periods. We’re so accustomed to them we think they’re real, but there are more natural units: moon cycles, circadian rhythms, seasons. It’s possible that, if you’re feeling stressed about time, your natural rhythms aren’t quite meshing with the artificial units of time imposed on us. Fitzgerald invites us to contemplate how we categorize time, and to remember when we’ve been in the state of flow, or timelessness.
Fitzgerald expands on natural time vs artificial time by highlighting how much of our day is dictated by clock time. If we were in a village or a small community, it would be easy to sync up with people because you’d know what activities they might be doing throughout the day. But in large cities and communities, we need the neutral unit of the hour to come together. It’s also very interesting to note how different cultures tell time if they’re not using hours. Many religions pray several times a day, the Hopi don’t have verb tenses, and the Sioux don’t have words for “late” or “waiting.” The primary contemplation is about tempo – what’s the pace at which you move through life? How do you tell when to change activities, drink coffee, go to sleep, do homework, or nap?
I think this was the first chapter that really resonated with me, because it’s the one that named what I was already feeling. Fitzgerald begins the chapter by citing a study observing how many hours of daylight flowers need to bloom. The study subsequently categorized flowers into short-day plants and long-day plants.
Later studies, however, discovered that it wasn’t really about the day length at all; plants who needed sixteen hours of sunlight (and eight hours of night) would not bloom with only four hours of darkness. “The flowers knew what we still acknowledge when we start the new day at midnight: day begins at night.”
Nighttime is my most important part of the day. It’s when I’m best able to work, it’s when I’m most focused, it’s when I most want to be awake. I also find that, when I put myself to sleep properly, I am more restored the following morning than if I fall asleep watching TV, even if I get more hours the second way.
“The concept of a week has its roots in two customs: holding regular market days and setting aside a certain day of the week as sacred.” So begins the chapter on yet another artificial time unit, which might be less artificial than we think. Fitzgerald goes into the history of the week, but I particularly like reading about the soul reasons for taking a Sabbath day, a day to not do. She also highlights some alternative practices for organizing one’s week, what days should be “first,” and how to create the relationship with weeks you crave.
All about moon cycles. This is the chapter that introduces the concept of naming the 13 moon cycles of the year, but also focuses on the energy of a single moon cycle: how the energy of the New Moon might feel different than the Full Moon, or Waxing Crescent Moon. It’s possible that you might have a natural energy shifts throughout the month, and if you know that the waxing phase yields more excitement and expansion, you can plan projects that align with that, and focus on cleaning up, categorizing, and finishing projects as the moon wanes.
Noticing my own personal moods and changes through the moon phases and my menstrual cycle was incredibly helpful. I don’t use hormonal birth control, and as a result I tend to get “yanked” to different cycles when I start hanging with new groups of women. When I have my period on a full moon, the impact is always greater: my PMS is more dramatic, my pain is intense, and dealing with people is difficult because I really just want to retreat to a Red Tent to be by myself.
When I notice my own natural cycle, I can take steps for self-care. I know that the two days prior to the start of my period are a hard energetic time for me, and I can plan to not work out, not make big party plans, try to take some time off work, focus on foods that aren’t difficult for me to digest. It’s very powerful to know my body in that way and give myself what I need.
This chapter feels like an easy week of assignments, because it’s kind of a continuation of the naming of the moons from the previous chapter. Having spent time observing how you respond to phases of the moon, this chapter invites you back into the rhythm of artificial time and asks you to plan out and experiment with how you want your months and seasons to look.
I liked this chapter, especially with the bridge of Week Seven. As I was reading I noticed immediately that January 1 is probably not a good time for me to overhaul my live, because I’m naturally more inclined to hibernation in the winter. If I’m going to try something new for my business or life, I should harness my natural energy and enthusiasm during the summer months, and leave the winter for rest and introspection.
But the most important thing to remember, as Fitzgerald points out, is that you have a unique experience with each season. It might change with your season of life, it may have to do with what’s going on with your life, relationships, work, or health. There are no wrong ways to be in relationship with seasons, and you can avoid a lot of stress by honoring your preferences.
This chapter builds on the school of the seasons and highlights the anniversaries, all those things you didn’t learn last year or want to celebrate again, the events we use to mark the passage of time.
This chapter discusses the importance of pausing during normal life for celebration days. She also offers many “official” holidays you can adopt, as well as some “invented” holidays that might be worth adopting.
Delves into astrology, one of my favorite topics. It always made a ton of sense to me that, if I was so impacted by the moon, that I would also be impacted by other planets. It’s helpful for me to have a reminder that there’s a larger energy at work when I feel like I’m the common thread in all the problems I’m having with jobs, people, experiences, cars, and life.
So this chapter discusses common astrological phenomena; Mercury Retrograde, Saturn Return, Mars cycle, and Mid-Life cycles. This energy is universal and you’ll be fine.
I loved this reminder that there’s a natural energy to where you are in your life. You right now is different than who you were at age 10, different than who you’ll be at age 50 or age 90, and different than who you’d be if you’d made different choices. So how will you design your life?
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
– T.S. Eliot, “Little Gidding,” Four Quartets