Given a choice between travelling on the M25 or a quiet English canal- which you would take?
Motorway driving sums up modern imperatives. Get there faster. Do more. Hurry up. Manners disappear in the exhaust fumes, every delay becomes a crisis. Contrast this with life in the slow lane- traditional narrow-boats chugging steadily at walking pace; gliding through open countryside, taking turns to navigate the locks.
These canals transformed industry in Britain. Heavy cargoes could be shifted easily and links between factories and raw materials were clear and direct. Ingenious engineering solutions built canal lifts, flights of locks, tunnels and bridges. It may have been slow, but it WORKED.
As I observed the “traffic” going through the Stoke Bruerne waterways centre, I was impressed by the friendliness of these commuters. They stopped to talk, waited patiently for their turn in the lock, did what was necessary but didn’t rush. It was a throwback to a simpler age. Expectations were lower, and luxury likewise! It wasn’t a perfect life back in those pioneering canal days: but the pace was definitely slower.
Changing colours in the shrubs and hedgerows spoke of Autumn’s onset. Bright red leaves shone in the dull light of a damp October day- and for a few hours, my rhythm settled into a slow and refreshing glide. I became an observer and ruminant. What my eyes saw, my mind enjoyed- and my spirit calmed and became open to noticing the small signs of life’s design. Swans and fish acted out a bit part in a slow-burn drama. Dogs took owners for walks in peaceful places. People lived in the slow lane- and loved it.
There is a short and simple psalm worth meditating on if the desire for life in the slow lane strikes an echo in your soul. Be still, be quiet, and meet with the God who has no need to rush.
Psalm 131:1-3 (NLT)
LORD, my heart is not proud; my eyes are not haughty. I don’t concern myself with matters too great or too awesome for me to grasp. Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself, like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk. Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, put your hope in the LORD— now and always.