If there were ever a time to slow down, Summer would surely be it – the holiday (or at least staycation) season is upon us, the days are long and languid and the mercury rises. But I know – thanks to the pressures of social media perhaps – there can still seem a need to be busy or productive, seeing and being seen, days out, doing stuff, buying stuff. As a nation, we’re addicted to busyness. And stuff.
Of course there’s an added layer of complexity this year: as lockdown eases (mostly), suddenly we’ve got newfound freedom – and competing pressures. One camp who seem to have gone back to “normal” at a rapid rate – or at least something approximating that – and another who shame those who are doing so. In this strange in-between time post-lockdown, the rules suddenly seem less clear. I know I’m still experiencing the urge to stay near home – with tentative steps towards socially distanced staycations – and I’m using this time to try to be more present, to stop rushing around and just be. Here are five ways that I’m embracing slow living this Summer.
How can you slow time down and really inhabit the moment? My answer is always reading. It sounds an obvious one – and a no-brainer for an English teacher – but sometimes we are so busy that making time for reading slips down the to do list. Guilty as charged – but I’ve made a real conscious effort to carve out the time and prioritise new books. I’ve read more these last few months (in spite of being busier than I’ve ever been) and have been happiest when doing so; it’s helped pass time when needed and slow time when needed, and certainly helped me be more present. For fiction I’ve recently read and would highly recommend Toni Morrison’s ‘Sula’ and Delia Owens’ ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’ and for non-fiction Pandora Sykes’ new collection of essays ‘How do We Know We’re Doing it Right?’ and Adam Kay’s ‘Dear NHS’. I urge you to order from an independent if you can – they need our support now more than ever. I spent more than I’d care to admit in Portobello Books (who you can order from online and they will post books out to you) and my choices have offered escapism, reflection and enrichment in equal measure.
Eat the Seasons
A trip to your local pick your own farm might involve more logistical planning this year, but if you can go berry picking safely near you then I urge you to do so – or at least to order some seasonal fare from your local no-contact delivery company. So many have sprung up over lockdown, my favourite in Edinburgh is Edinburgh Food Delivery. Make a day of preserving your haul for a taste of Summer on dreich Winter mornings. From pickles and preserves to jams, jellies and cordials, shrubs and ferments, there are so many ways to distill Summer.
Planning a staycation as lockdown eases, and visiting nearby towns and villages in your country – following up-to-date government guidance of course – is not only cheaper and better for the planet but also helps you see the familiar with fresh eyes. Never visited that local sightseeing spot? Play tourist at home and you might just start to see your everyday a little differently, too. More on our slow Summer Scottish staycation at Guardswell Farm next week!
Here in Scotland it’s light past 9.30 p.m. still, and the evenings seem to stretch on into infinity. Make the most of the longer evenings by going for a walk, starting couch to 5K, soaking up every last drop of light in the garden or even just opening the window wide to let in that glorious scent of Summer. I see this time as storing up fuel for the short days of Winter to come, topping up on light and brightness for the long months ahead. The daily walk during lockdown was a genuine highlight, and I’m keen to keep this habit up as the seasons change too.
Slow Summer in the Kitchen
I love to potter in the kitchen, not least in Summer. Podding peas is one of my favourite seasonal kitchen jobs, even if half of them don’t make it to the bowl (call it chef’s perk!) there’s something oddly reinvigorating about such mindful and repetitive tasks. Ditto watching a pot of simmering fruit compote, making jams or curds; plus, these makes taste miles better unrushed. It’s a win win – call it culinary therapy.
Do you have any slow living tips for Summer?