Why Slow?

Nicole Land thinking with Angélique Sanders, Kassandra Rodriguez Almonte, and Angela Chow

We have been thinking about pausing and the hard, sometimes nearly painful, work of noticing carefully while walking (or being in a place) slowly. We thought too about how noticing draws us to other noticing – we have to respond in a moment-to-moment way, rather than knowing already what it is we might encounter and how we might engage with it. What I think has been interesting in our conversations is that we are thinking a lot about what slowing down looks like and demands: what does slowing down actually entail? If slowness is more than just a speed, how do we move slowly with the children?

From this, we wondered what it is that slowness opens up or how we notice differently when moving slowly. Here too there’s this really hard work to slowness, and it reminded me of Pauliina Rautio’s (2017) work on attending and attuning. She’s writing in a multispecies context, thinking with birds and relationships, and how living commonly with birds requires attending and attuning differently, in ways that aren’t always familiar to humans, to get to know bird knowledges and lives in an intimate way. Rautio’s writing about attuning and attuning has stuck with me for many years – I like the idea of tuning and tending. There’s a slowness, I think, in tending; a care, a being drawn in, a patience. I mentioned too the concept of care-full, of moving in ways that are infused with care and love and attuning and attention. I think that for me, there are connections between how we are thinking about slowness and care-fullness; that perhaps, slowness is a certain kind of care or demands caring relations of us, or helps us to get to know the quad in a way that orients toward care? It’s the start of a thought for me, but I need to think it out more.

When I mention care, I am thinking particularly of Maria Puig de la Bellacasa’s work (2017). Bellacasa talks about the idea of “as well as possible care”, where care is a kind of commitment or labour to respond well – in liveable ways – to the worlds we are part of. For her, care isn’t something to be resolved but a ‘problem’ to stick with; being care-full is messy and never decided once and for all – we can never know with absolutely certainty how to care well in any situation. Bellacasa writes “what as well as possible care might mean will remain a fraught and contested terrain where different arrangements of humans-nonhumans will have different and collective significances” (p. 221). This echoes for me what we have been thinking with the children with: to move slowly (care-fully, attuning and attuning to our moving and the world) is a practice to be cultivated, not an end point to achieve; it isn’t something that can be pre-determined (for example, to say that moving slowly is the same for all children or that slowness is achieved when bodies don’t go above a certain pace) but takes on a different form in different moments as we notice and pay attention and respond. This makes me think about how complex slowness and noticing are.

I think this is an important question to spend time with with the children: when are we going slowly? What do we notice when we move slow? How do we move slowly with the quad and with what we pay attention to in the quad? Why do we want to move slowly here?

I think too, we need to think carefully about *why* slowing down and noticing matter – questions of wanting to pay attention with the children to what lives and moves in the yard (how do we care for more-than-human others while moving?) and of wanting to nurture certain dispositions and ways of navigating the world with the children, ways of being that align with our own pedagogical commitments for an uncertain future (how do we want to be in the world – what is important? I’m thinking here about how Angélique’s mentioned the prevalence of narratives about ‘progress’ and being ‘good, productive citizens’ in ECE, and what slowness does to complexify this). We’ve been talking together about how to activate our conversations and ‘research questions’ with the children while walking, and I wonder if thinking about our intentions, our ‘why’ for walking slowly, helps with this as well.

I want to walk slowly to notice what moves because it matters that we understand how we are implicated in and connected to the other lives and moving beings in the quad. This intention, I want to suggest, lends itself toward certain questions and ways of moving our own bodies and noticing with the children. Or, wanting to walk slowly to notice movements in the quad because slowness is a practice of being deeply present and resisting assessing every moment for its use value or what it produces or how it contributes to children’s development/progress. This too, I think, makes me think of certain questions and ways of moving with the children. For me, it is important to keep returning to this question of why in this research – what are my intentions? What are my commitments for wanting to travel in a certain way? How are my intentions care-fully about complicated ethics and politics, and not just technical considerations? For me, this is an anchor for why the work matters – for shaping what our work orients toward and opens up together. It’s the high-stakes character of the work, going so far beyond simply investigating something to learn more about it and instead thinking about moving and noticing as opening toward different ways of being in the world.

de La Bellacasa, M. P. (2017). Matters of care: Speculative ethics in more than human worlds. Minneapolis, MN: U of Minnesota Press.

Rautio, P. (2017). Thinking about life and species lines with Pietari and Otto (and garlic breath). TRACE∴ Finnish Journal for Human-Animal Studies3, 94-102.

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