Slow Love

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Slow Love

No matter how much we hear about its beneficial effects, few of us willingly invite change into our lives.  But it comes anyway.  An uninvited guest, it shows up to spoil our comfortable existence, usually when we least expect it and often accompanied by its cohorts of upheaval, anxiety and fear.  And oh, how we resent it.  Too easily creatures of habit, we stand shocked in the face of any alteration to our well ordered days, unsure of which way to turn when the lane we have followed for so long has disappeared in the mist.  But as Edith Wharton once wrote, “Habit is necessary; it is the habit of having habits, of turning a trail into a rut, that must be incessantly fought against if one is to remain alive”.   So, we change.

Many of you are familiar with Dominique Browning.  As the editor of House and Garden during its most creative years, her beautifully written monthly columns were reason enough to subscribe to that magazine.  I, along with many, looked forward to its appearance in my mailbox each month, until one month, it was gone.  No previous issue held any hint of its impending demise, there were no warnings or rumours - it was there, and then it was not.  I, again along with many, was shocked at its loss.  And if I was shocked, just imagine how Ms. Browning felt.  Suddenly unemployed, and with the magazine she had led now vanished like an early morning dream, she found herself, not unlike so many others over these last fitful years, forced into a solitary reevaluation of her life, and one that she had neither requested nor planned for.

Happily for all of us, she has written an account of this slippery period in her new book, Slow Love - How I Lost My Job, Put On My Pajamas and Found Happiness.  It is a book with an honest bravery on every page, and one I cannot recommend highly enough.  
We follow Ms. Browning through her often rather amusing stages of grief at the loss of who she once thought she was - from her three am piano playing, her new found addiction to cookies, her love of the perfectly designed pair of pajamas (drawstrings are the key here), and finally, to her painful decision to sell her house and begin a new, less cloudy, life.  As someone who loves my house with a passion, I nodded with recognition over her wretched first meeting with the realtor who was selling her home of many years, knowing full well that the words coming out of that woman’s mouth would be the same she would utter to me in that  situation...”Have you actually read all these books?  What an unusual colour on the walls.  What would you call that?". 
Fact is, I found my head nodding throughout this book.  How can I not feel a connection with a woman who, even though being at the pinnacle of professional design for years still says that her “basic decorating rule of thumb is to create as many lovely places in which to sit and read as possible.”   I found it more difficult to relate to her mercurial love of many years, called Stroller in the book, for his irritatingly constant tendency to stroll out of her life.  (He apparently objected to the name Walker, which was originally slated to be his nom de plume.  Personally, I would have christened him Slinker. ) 

I suppose the main reason this book resonated with me in such a warm way, can be found in the conclusions Ms. Browning reaches in her journey, for they are the ones I have championed most of my life.  The ones that qualify most as Slow Love.  It is no surprise to me that her equilibrium returns through the creation of a new garden, for it has always been in the midst of the natural world that I myself have found the beauty and meaning in life.  The hand of God in the trees. 
 This little book is so replete with wisdom, words that burrow into one’s heart and take root, words to turn over and over in one’s hand like a talisman.  When the skies begin to clear for Ms. Browning, we know they are skies washed clean by a storm.  A storm of unexpected change.

 In my mother’s generation, women held onto a book called A Gift From The Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh.  It spoke to them of their place in the shifting sands of their lives - they could see themselves on its pages.  Slow Love seems rightfully destined to become that for this generation of women caught as so many of us are in these often confusing, and changeable, days.  
Do yourself a favour and read it. 
 Then give it to somebody else.

You can find the book HERE.
I am also happy to report that Dominique Browning has joined the world of blogging, with her delightful blog, SlowLoveLife.  Pay her a visit!

Painting above by Pierre Bonnard
Edith Wharton quotation from her autobiography, A Backward Glance