How Native Plants Help Me Live Slower in Fast World
I meant to say Instacart shopper the other day while making small talk with the cashier at the grocery store, and instead I said “Instagram shopper”. So many instants in the day to day, and my mind interchanged the two. I corrected myself to the cashier and we both laughed under our breath.
Instant coffee. Instant oatmeal. Instant rice. There is even instant quinoa now, I can’t even believe it. The other day we were driving past a large strip mall, and my tween daughter asked me: “What’s a one-hour photo?” After seeing the large circular spectrum signage on a building. You had to take your film that was in your camera to a place to get it developed, I explained. Sometimes it was going to take a few days, then a one-hour photo came about.
The list went on and on. If you wanted to listen to a station on the radio, a dial on the console would need to be adjusted, which then moved to dials on the steering wheel, oh cool, so much better! There was no Pandora or Spotify, there were commercials.
But really when you think about it, most of the changes involve things getting faster. Faster dial up, faster modems, faster wi-fi, get your 126 types of drinks faster from Starbucks by using the app, faster dishwashers and washers, with “speed cycles” or “quick wash”. Or faster still, instead of walking over to a light switch, just say: “Alexa, turn on kitchen.” Faster toll booths with EZ Pass and FasTrak. Even Disney went with Fast Passing your way through the Magic Kingdom so we can see “It’s A Small World After All” faster. Faster bread making with rapid rise yeast. Faster waffles (they come right out of a box). Faster cooking with the rise of the Instant Pot.
Nature does not move fast. It never has. Evolution takes eons, and while a baby bird may hatch pretty quickly, it has taken years of evolution for that bird to succeed in the survivorship of its species. Take a walk, it will clear your mind, ease your stress. Go forest bathing, it has countless benefits. Why? Nature doesn’t have notifications. Well, that’s not entirely true. There are two. The one when the sun rises in the morning, and the second when the sun sets in the evening. All guided by the Earth orbiting the sun and the Earth rotating on its axis.
I waited seven months to see a new flower bloom in my garden. The small nondescript flower with nothing but a few sprigs of brownish green was planted in November and it was just this week that I finally got to see what the flower looks like in bloom. I stared at it for quite a while. It was gorgeous and well worth waiting for. The color was especially striking being as red as the King’s Guard. At this current state, the flower, Echinacea purpurea ‘Cheyenne Spirit’ is no taller than my knee. Yet it begs to be admired, photographed and admired some more. It gets admired a lot now, as it is in perfect view from my kitchen window. The red firing back at me from 30 feet away. Seven months of growing slow.
I recently walked through one of the big box stores in my area and meandered the cement walkway through the piles and racks of plants and trays of flowers. All in glorious bloom. About 70% of what was for sale was annuals in full bloom. So the consumer is buying something that will only bloom a few weeks more at best, and then be gone. The polar opposite of my little understated mound of green. Planted around Thanksgiving, blooming around Independence day, and will bloom again next year.
Because native plants have such unique blooms as well as their own special bloom times, plants like this one bring me out to the garden several times a day, like a treasure hunt. A slow walk to see what is blooming. To see what’s coming up while something else is going away. There is nothing instant in my garden. Though the ruby-throated hummingbird seemed instantly curious about my head this morning when I was wearing my hot watermelon colored bucket hat. He buzzed me, and in an instant he was gone. But for now, the Cheyenne spirit coneflower is here for a while, and after another slow trip around the sun it will be back again, slowly, in its own time. I’ll gladly wait for it to grow slow.
One of the “blockbuster” hits of 2022 was Everything, Everywhere, All At Once. What is a title like that saying about the speed of our culture? While I can’t make a rational comment about the film because that film was a lot to take in, I will say that the very nature of the title intrigues me not because I want to live faster in a fast world. But I want to live slower and try to navigate the fastlane in a way that doesn’t make me question why is everything always so instant?
When you look back over the past decade, it is amazing how many things used to be slower. Even names are getting faster. Federal Express is now FedEx, Dunkin’ Donuts is now just Dunkin’. Yet, it is hard to go a day without some ad popping up or some targeted marketing coming at you with words like “be more mindful” “slow food” “breathe” “meditation moment” or “spend time in nature”.
For me, the joy of native plants is in the slow walks they encourage around to enjoy their unhurried pace.