By Miriam Huebner

‘The Act of Slowing Down’

Washington DC, July 28

On this trip I am known for riding off the road a lot. At least daily I ride into the ditch, not because I am bad at biking but because paying attention to the plants beside the road feels a lot more important than paying attention to the road itself. I have spent countless hours looking at the purple petals of echinacea and wild bergamot and the splatters of mulberries on the trail that promise a tasty snack from the trees above. In order to really see the land that I am riding through, biking is still too fast and I need to slow down or risk riding off of the road.

It is strange that at the speed of a bicycle I still often long to go slower. Before this ride started, I imagined that I would be able to really pay attention to the country that I am biking through. However, I still feel like I am going too fast to truly notice my surroundings. I can see the blur of flowers but I miss the pollinators that land on them. Even though we are not going as fast as a car the desire for speed and efficiency is still built into our bodies and minds and intentionally slowing down still feels strange and uncomfortable.

I think that this discomfort with slowing down is a reflection of our broader society. We are pushed to compete with others and internalize the idea that being better or faster than others is our only way to do well in the world. Speed has become so normalized that slowing down, caring for, and deeply knowing the earth that we live on and the people that we live has become uncommon. 

On this trip I have come to realize the importance of both speed and slowness. At times I want to speed down a mountain or push my body to see how fast it can go and relish in its strength, but at other times I want to ride slowly and really notice the land I am riding through, stopping when I see a particularly cool looking mushroom or wildflower. Slowing down to pay more attention to the land and the people I see is important because it is in the act of slowing down that we build community and connection to each other and to the world.