We have just returned from four days on the Norfolk Broads. For me this was an old haunt as our parents used to take us on boating holidays when we were children. I have happy memories of waking to mist on the water and the echo of moorhens and coots calling across a Broad. I enjoyed lying in my bunk, aware of the gentle sway of the tide and creak of ropes. There was always something to do but never too much.
On this recent trip I became aware of how content I am to travel at 3 miles an hour, as we did on our boat. I understood why my father relaxed and enjoyed just messing about on the river all those years ago. I could sit for hours watching the marshes, reeds, fields and windmills trundle by slowly. Or gently rowing across Salhouse Broad accompanied by families of ducklings and goslings, with the odd heron swooping by. It was wonderfully restorative after a busy few weeks.
Mind you, I have never been a speed merchant. When, many years ago, we had to hire motor bikes in Bermuda – there weren’t cars – I went so slowly that the bike couldn’t gain purchase on the road so I kept wobbling and falling off. When I made a feeble attempt at learning to ski at the age of 40 my son, who was elegantly snowboarding down a nearby mountain, commented that I looked stiff as a board on my 3 foot nursery slope and was travelling too slowly to keep upright. Despite riding all my life, I ensure that my horse is going uphill if we canter or gallop so that I can be sure he will stop at the top of the hill.
In a conversation in a pub with an old schoolfriend, Penny, an old schoolfriend, she told me of a quote she had read in a Paolo Coelho book “walk neither faster nor slower than your own soul. Because it is your soul that will teach you the usefulness of each step you take.” I find this a wise saying and am aware that there are many people who prefer to walk faster than I do and that may suit them but doesn’t suit me.
It also reminds me of a poignant moment when I was late to meet a boyfriend some twenty years ago. I was anxious to make a good impression and got out of the taxi in Soho in haste, paid the cabbie and rushed along the road. Somewhere in the shadow of a shop door someone commented “It’s not a race, you know,” and I remember laughing, relaxing and slowing down.
I can easily forget that my soul likes to walk slowly and push myself to rush but it doesn’t serve me well. I can lose perspective and take wrong decisions and action if I haven’t given myself time to reflect. So now I need to be more aware of Coelho’s words of wisdom and adjust myself to that delightful three miles an hour we experienced on our boat on the Broads.
I wonder if you know at what speed your soul likes to walk?