The quiet of power

Quiet and strong, two oxen stroll down Duke of Gloucester Street. Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, October 2005

Quiet and strong, two oxen stroll down Duke of Gloucester Street.
Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, October 2005

…slow things are beautiful:
The closing of day,
The pause of the wave
That curves downward to spray,
The ember that crumbles,
The opening flower,
And the ox that moves on
In the quiet of power.    – Elizabeth Coatsworth

Recently I read a book that discussed the pervasive effects of technology on how we view ourselves.  The author explained that the increasing speed of computer processing leaves us feeling less intelligent when we cannot keep up with the machine’s pace.  But he pointed out that humans have capabilities that no machine will ever be able to duplicate, and there is more to ability than speed.

Our world seems little inclined to value a slow pace in anything.  We expect gadgets, cars, service providers and even schoolchildren to deliver the quick results we want, and waiting for anything taxes our ever-decreasing stores of patience.  Pursuits that can be done more rapidly by machine or assembly-line procedures have consigned such arts as sewing, cooking and woodworking to the category of “hobbies” rather than occupations.

Sometimes we sense that life is not meant to move at such breakneck speeds, but we feel vaguely guilty and inefficient when we slow down — and even if we are enjoying our deliberate pace, someone else is likely to come along and pressure us to step it up.  Exhausted, we fall into bed each night with tomorrow’s “to-do” list nagging at us from a far corner of our brain, if not the front and center of our last waking thoughts.

We have heard “time is money” so often that we may begin to think we can never have enough of either.  That might be true, but only if we allow it to be.  Time pressure can create the illusion that frenzied acceleration will serve us, but haste really does make waste in some circumstances. Power need not depend upon speed; often, it is quiet and steadfast, as with the drops of water that gradually wear away solid rock.

Today, I invite you to celebrate with me the beauty of slow things.  Turn off the television’s frantic voices of urgency, whether in the news or on commercials, and turn on some Debussy or Brahms or Enya.  Fill the kettle to the top and watch the tiny bubbles gradually forming as the water comes to a boil.  Breathe deeply, taking in the unique aroma of the fruit or bread or coffee you enjoy.  I wish you blissful hours that pass at a relaxing tempo, leaving you serenely smiling at day’s end.

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.


  1. Good morning, Julia!
    I was glad to read this blog this morning, as I am in Florida visiting my parents, and today is a Saturday, so I can relax and spend time with them, and knit.
    Our agenda for today includes:
    Trip to the library
    Pick up Daddy for the day
    Possible afternoon swim with Mom while Daddy naps
    Possibly watch a movie we’ve picked at the library
    Return Daddy to the full nursing care facility
    Card games with Mom
    I bring my knitting with me, as I am seriously challenged by unplanned hours, such as when Daddy naps.

    • Susan, thank you for giving us such a vivid glimpse into what seems (to me) to be a blissful day. However much you enjoyed it in real time, I can promise you that the memory will be a blessing that grows, and someday will bring you great consolation. Re: “seriously challenged” by unplanned hours…bring your camera, a book (or better yet, a Kindle Paperwhite filled with books), an iPad or other tablet with downloaded PBS Masterpiece shows and movies from the library, or any number of other things you might enjoy during quiet times. OR you could listen to an audiobook while you knit– while wearing headphones or earpieces, of course, so that quiet is maintained for others! 😀 We are SO lucky to have all these diversions!

  2. Mike

    Who was it who said,” There is more to life than increasing its speed.”

    This is probably why eastern practices such as meditation are so unpopular here. I am told in Italy it is not unusual for families to spend an hour plus at dinner.Hard to believe.

    • Yes, and in Europe we have waited HOURS for a table in a restaurant. That leisurely pace means that customers are allowed to linger as long as they want after dinner, no matter how many others are waiting. So it’s a two-edged sword. Good if you are already at a table, not so good if you end up waiting ever-more-hungry until 9 or even 10 to eat dinner, when you are accustomed to eating much earlier.

      I thought at first the word “unpopular” in your comment was a typo. In my experience, for the past decade and more, eastern practices (especially yoga and martial arts) are so popular as to be almost like a trend or fad that has progressed every year. Our neighborhood fitness center has at least half a dozen such classes going at any one time. It has sort of replaced church attendance for many who participate. BUT I’m not sure it has achieved the worthy goal of slowing anybody down. It’s just one more thing on the schedule in many cases.

      • mike c

        The earlier quote was from Gandhi. “More to life…”
        Good point about having to waiting an hour for a table in Europe. I have not had the pleasure. But i have been asked to leave a restaurant -because they needed the table, and that was on a Sunday.
        I don’t know anyone who meditates. There are some Yoga classes at the Canton Y where i go- but not sure those count as a meditative practice.
        I should not ta lk as i took .T.M. classes in college. Transcendental meditaion-. Totally bogus.

        • Mike, my mother took me to a modified version of TM classes with her way back during the 1970’s. I would not say it was totally bogus, but the (American) instructor was definitely a bit smarmy for my taste. I did get something out of the class though. And it was my first introduction to the Bhavaghad Gita, meditative tools such as the universal mantra, and the work of Parmahansa Yoganada– all of which was discussed in a non-threatening Western context, so it felt less far out that some people might have thought it would be. It’s an experience I’m glad I had, and some of its lessons have been valuable in a general sort of way. I think that, for many of us who are Christians, prayer has always been our primary meditative practice. Most of us really need no other.

  3. Mickey

    Beautifully written!! Could not agree more. When we rush, we often overlook the small things, the details … and God is in the details.

    • Thank you Mickey! I am so happy you like it.

  4. mike c

    when i did the T.M. at graduation you were supposed to bring a flower for the teacher and a donation of like -30 dollars-which at the time for a student was a bit of change. Then you were given a mantra– Ohmm… or something like that which was supposed to have been indivualised, but i am pretty sure everyone got the same thing. My girlfriend at the time-made fun of me. Oh- that was Verie.

    • Well at least Verie was there to help you with a bit of humor! I was taught that “Om” is the universal mantra– what people use when they can’t think of one for themselves. Sounds as if your teacher got a bit lazy there. How funny that he was also panhandling for a “donation” — something that has been taken to a whole new level with digital forms of doing the same thing. I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same!

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