A lot of life has taken on a motion-blurring warp-speed pace, a quickness that belies reflection, awareness, or even just enjoyment. In some ways this is good. As I write this, I have two loads of laundry tumbling around in the hallway washer and dryer, and it’s nice to be able to multitask on chores that used to take a lot of time and energy. Sometimes I hand-wash or line-dry clothing, especially when I have a lot of time or I have garments that need special care. But sometimes I don’t, because I really need that towel dry by tonight or because I just don’t really think it’s necessary to wash my jeans in the bathroom sink. Sometimes the quickness with which we can do menial tasks is good.
But sometimes, I miss the slowness.
I’ve had electric kettles ever since I moved off to college. My freshman dorm didn’t have a stove in the unit, and the shared kitchen wasn’t on my floor. Additionally, nobody really thinks to have a nice, wholesome cup of tea at the ready in a college cafeteria. So, if I wanted my tea, I needed to make it in my dorm, and I needed to make it quickly. So, naturally, I got an electric kettle. My first apartment was a bit of an unhappy situation so far as roommates go, so I kept all my tea things in my bedroom as a way of carving out a little happy corner in which I could hide away. Again: no stove in my bedroom, so out came the electric kettle. That kettle lasted me until sometime in grad school, when it finally went kaput, and was replaced with a similar model. Both served me well and brewed many a cheerful cuppa.
But at some point in the last year, I was looking around my kitchen and feeling a little glum. I wanted a pretty kitchen, a kitchen that “sparked joy” when I went to make myself or Jonathan something to eat or drink. And it wasn’t doing that. Why?
I looked around. A lot of it was stuff I couldn’t control (I’m still in an apartment), but that wasn’t really what the problem was. Then it hit me: I wanted a happy kettle.
The electric kettle is a helpful invention. It’s great to have access to tea in settings where you can’t have a stove and a regular kettle. But it just isn’t as chipper. Sure, it’s quieter. It’s also a lot quicker. You can get really specific with your temperature settings, too, which is extra nice if you’re a tea aficionado.
But I wanted a whistle-pot. I wanted a kettle. I wanted something old and slow, something I’d have to wait on, listen for, run across the house to catch just when the top was about to blow off. I wanted to have to pay attention to my little tea time. Even if that meant having to bust out a thermometer (or just guesstimate by counting out 30 seconds or however long) for those times I wanted to make an oolong or a green tea, I wanted slow.
So I got slow. I got a little blue enamel tea pot, with a chipper little whistle when the water boils. It looks a little silly on the flat electric stove, with its bright blue color and it’s quirky, retro Scandinavian-looking handle. But it makes me smile every time I wait for it to boil. It makes my tea making a little bit more intentional, a little bit more whimsical. It makes me happy.
I think sometimes it takes going slow—or at least slower—to experience the gentle contentment of everyday life. I’m not very good at it, I’ll be the first to admit. It’s hard. It’s hard to stop and just focus on the thing in front of me and do it. It’s hard not to be buffeted about by that low-resolution anxiety that seems to permeate my day.
But—slowly—it’s getting better. It takes practice. It takes sipping on a cup while reading in the morning, playing with the cat for a few minutes uninterrupted, watching the onions and garlic caramelize without running out of the room to anxiously check email for just a quick second! And that takes patience, and time, and commitment, and self-control, and attention. But that sense of cozy, homey, very small but very real contentment comes along with it. Sometimes, it pays to take it slow.