Whilst here, in Anghiari, I have been reading a lovely book called A Philosophy of Walking (by Frédéric Gros). Here are a couple of passages on the experience of time when walking:
Walking is the best way to go more slowly than any other method that has ever been found. To walk, you need to start with two legs. The rest is optional. If you want to go faster, then don’t walk, do something else: drive, slide or fly. Don’t walk. And when you are walking, there is only one sort of performance that counts: the brilliance of the sky, the splendour of the landscape. Walking is not a sport. (2014: 2)
The illusion of speed is the belief that it saves time….
But haste and speed accelerate time, which passes more quickly, and two hours of hurry shorten a day. Every minute is torn apart by being segmented, stuffed to bursting. You can pile a mountain of things into an hour. Days of slow walking are very long: they make you live longer, because you have allowed every hour, every minute, every second to breathe, to deepen, instead of filling them up by straining the joints. (36)
While I have been walking in wonderful landscapes here, it’s not specifically walking that brought these passages to mind again. Rather, it’s an everyday way of being that I observe and marvel at time and again. Particularly when in shops. I have described this experience in previous posts, but I guess I find it amazing because it is just ordinary everyday life, yet so different from my everyday life in Sydney. The common Italian expression ‘piano, piano’ (slowly, slowly) describes this well, but there is another expression that I find apt, and that is ‘tranquillo’. Over and over, in conversations, in interviews, people use this word to describe what is special about living in Anghiari.
‘Tranquillo’ can’t really be pinned down – it is a whole way of life. But, here are a couple of recent shop experiences. The paper shop, run by Angela, is a busy place every morning, but I hesitate in using the word ‘busy’, because it never feels like that. There is never any sense of busyness or rush or impatience on the part of either Angela or her customers. The other day, at a time when people are in buying papers, Angela was sitting at a bench towards the back of the shop, carefully wrapping a present for someone. (The shop is, like all the small shops here, full of all sorts of things – in this case, toys, men’s caps, women’s hats, wool, pens, paper, literature…) While Angela was wrapping the present, people were waiting patiently, without any agitation. There was an air of calmness. There will be time. Once the gift, card and so on had been attended to, Angela turned her attention to each of the other customers. Every day, I notice that each person is attended to with care, without rush, even if they are just buying the paper. And, should I be in there when there is no-one else, Angela and I now have a conversation about something related to the headlines of the day, to practice our Italian and English. (This included a conversation recently about why reading newspapers is one of the more difficult things to do in a different language, which, in the case of Italian, is not helped by the Italian political system.)
Here’s the second example. Yesterday, I went into the florist’s to buy some flowers for the apartment, as people were coming to dinner. Now, in a florist’s you might expect there to be more attention than in a newsagent, but, even here, there was something distinctive about the experience of time. Any sense of doing this, then that, crossing things off a list, that I might have arrived with, quickly dropped away once in the shop. Selecting flowers was what mattered right now. And it wasn’t simply a matter of choosing a bunch. The occasion, the room, how many flowers, in what combination if any, what length…. All to be taken into consideration. ‘Piano, piano’. Much discussion, to and fro, and the right decision is arrived at. Everyone is in agreement. I left that shop (with 7 carefully wrapped irises) feeling enlivened, as I do after all these encounters.
Tranquillo doesn’t mean sleepy, dozey. It’s a way of being that gives meaning and depth to ordinary, everyday things. Anghiari is, afterall, a lively place, in a quiet, understated sort of way.
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Looking out of the study window on a wet and windy Saturday is another kind of deceleration…