I’m borrowing a title from Phebe Hanson and Joan Pride’s travel memoir because it applies to all kinds of motions–teeth, bows, feet. Item: in the last two weeks, I’ve been visited by two performances of Bach that were too fast. “Listen to this last movement,” advised Steve Staruck on MPR. I did. A bunch of crickets hyped to the max. Then last weekend at the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, their excitement got out of hand. Joana Carneiro, the young Portuguese conductor, led the orchestra in Bach’s “Double VIolin Concerto in D. Minor.” I couldn’t distinguish Allegro and Vivace–both first and third movements grinding notes into a flurry of cornmeal that rose like a flock of gnats over the stage. Don’t get me wrong: Joana Carneiro herself as a conductor works like a mad peasant from Kathe Kollwitz’s Peasants Revolt series, or Goya’s “Disasters of War.” The vigor of her black-clad back, swooping and bending, cajoling and inciting was, in itself, an art form.
Fast is over-rated unless you’re trying to outrun a tornado or flood. There’s almost always another train. Rushing down the highway these days almost always ends in a stalemate stuck in a traffic jam. This summer, taking the train, not the plane from Chicago to Saint Paul we went slow enough through the water meadows of Wisconsin for me to spy two cranes rising on their huge gray wings like enormous cloaks giving way to the breeze. I want to teach the small people in my life to paw through a tub of shells over and over, counting and describing, as light flickers over us and the water eddies back and forth. Last evening walking down a familiar alley, I noticed a V of geese headed straight west overhead. Then they got lost in the huge flickering head of a cottonwood. A bird-eating tree? When I finally spied them again, they had veered sharply southeast, heading no doubt toward Lake Pepin and ultimately down the Mississippi flyway. They knew that tree, something told me. Something about the way it flickered pointed them south, on a diagonal away from the setting sun. If I’d been running, I would have missed them.
Then there’s the savor of munching slow. A while back, a doctor told me, drink a glass of water before eating dinner. Then take small bites, with time in between. Chew thoroughly, savor the flavor and texture. Notice what you’re eating. Sit and rest between courses. Sit and read The New Yorker after cleaning your plate. When I first attempted this revolution, I had to rein the consuming horse under control. My husband who can finish a huge plate of food in five to ten minutes, became agitated. Finally I had to tell him: “I’m not going to rush. I’m going to sit here. You go on. I’ll see you later.” Now I have the table to myself for half an hour or more after he’s decamped.
Remember, our progenitors, thousands of years ago, walked. Or ran, or rode on horseback, muleback, camelback. Speed consuming miles and baked potatoes and a flurry of notes does not a life make. It makes a blur, a buzz, a stomach ache.