And then

I keep waiting for inspiration to write on the theme “slow.” The only things that come to mind are clichés: slowing down in a sped-up world; staying present in an era of distractions; the art of doing nothing. None of this feels fresh.

Frankly, slow is not sexy. The number one rule of writing is to not bore the reader. Readers like a catchy lede, a fast-paced thriller, and the pull of “What’s going to happen next?!” We like quick hooks and plot twists. We do not like watching the paint dry.

I don’t like slow in life either. My husband, daughter, and I have lived in Seattle eight years. For me, many of those years have been difficult, and I have sometimes felt stuck. The wet, grey climate seeps into my bones, and for much of the year I feel cold, so cold I can’t warm up. I miss the sun. The cultural reserve confuses me. Raised in the South where we greet passing strangers with a smile and often a “hi there,” I am taken aback at people passing without so much as eye contact. I see you, and I know you see me.

At times, during the middle-of-the-night moments when the mind shifts from the busyness of the day to the deep, dark questions of the soul, I have debated if we should move. When I’d nearly made up my mind to go, I discovered something. We’d built a life here. The friendships and the familiarity crept up on me but, in fact, they’ve been growing all along, slowly and quietly, from my daughter’s first year of preschool to fifth grade. 

We knew no one when we arrived. On her preschool form, we left blank the line for our emergency contact. Now, when we need help, we can call dozens of people. We have become part of that coveted, elusive thing: a community. 

Without noticing, I got used to things that were novel in the beginning. Picking blackberries and blueberries. Swimming in the lake. Walking one block to hop a bus into the heart of the city. Walking three blocks to a giant urban forest where I can see owls. Riding a ferry to an island. Neighborhood fireworks that last the entire week of July 4th. 

I expect these things now. They are part of what makes a place feel like home. 

Still, I miss the fireflies. My mom and my sister’s family. Going to the polls and getting a Georgia peach sticker saying I voted. The friendliness of strangers—in stores, parking lots, sidewalks. The heat and humidity. Big lawns and screened-in porches. Restaurants like Six Feet Under, with its shrimp baskets, and The Flying Biscuit’s grits and black bean love cakes. The smell of red dirt after a lightning storm.

But here we have the magic of hummingbirds and Mt. Rainier. A world of parks and peaks, impromptu sleepovers and campouts. And my daughter huddled with friends at an outdoor summer screening of Kinky Boots with an emcee in a sequined dress.

It all snuck up on me. Slowly. And I should take none of it for granted.

E. LYNN HEINISCH’S career has included reporting from Africa, Asia, and the Middle East for humanitarian agencies, and working as a journalist, speechwriter for CEOs, communications director, and high-tech media relations officer. Now she’s writing her own stories.

Comments

  1. Oh…My…Goodness! The hairs on my right thigh are standing at attention! Not sure why only my right thigh chilled up as I read your beautifully painted piece. The aroma of red clay came off the page and filled my memories of my mother’s south in and around Camden Alabama. I am so glad I got to live there for a year or two when I was about 8 years old. Thank you for dredging up so well the feel and taste of a South I was so lucky to experience and a mother and granny I will always feel warmed by. Sweet!

    Like

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