One of the most significant changes I’ve noticed since moving here to the Cognac region of France is the pace of life. One of the villages near where I live is part of the “CittaSlow” movement – the “slow city” movement which started with the “slow food” movement in Italy. The Charente river which winds its way through these parts as it heads west to the Atlantic is characterised as a “slow river” – mainly because as it passes through here its surface seems pretty unruffled most of the time. It’s the river equivalent of relaxed and steady.
“Slowness” isn’t really about pace at all. It’s about being present. It’s about paying attention to the here and now and savouring what the present moment has to offer.
But there’s something else all around here which contributes to that value – the vineyards. Most of the land in this area is covered with vineyards which produce grapes to be turned into Cognac and Pineau. I was out walking yesterday and noticed one of the vineyard workers doing what they all do at this time of year – prune the vines. Look at him, or her (I can’t tell from this distance), working along the lines of vines. Every single plant is pruned back to two stems, one heading to the left, and one to the right, stem by stem, plant by plant. All done by hand by an individual. Seeing one person working a whole vineyard like this is common around here. Sometimes you can spot two people, or, I think, at most, three in the same field. But mostly it’s just one. Can you imagine? Can you imagine what it takes to work from sunrise to sunset, day after day, until the job is completed? Paying attention at every moment to the particular plant in front of you?
So, let’s add two other values to “slowness” – patience and persistence.
Between them these three, interlinked values seem to me to be fundamental to the creation of the particular qualities of life here.
Taking the time without feeling frustrated, pressured, or resentful. And having the determination and the energy to keep on keeping on.
Wow! It’s quite a triad! I recommend them.
And you know what? I think we need to add something else to the mix – loving attention.
If the vine worker doesn’t care about each and every plant, they won’t thrive. The way to get the best harvest each year is to care enough to take your time, and work steadily and patiently, until the whole vineyard has been attended to.