I’m a Slow Man

I’m a Slow Man May 21, 2024

Slow man  Movin’ down the road,

He’s movin’ with a leisurely gait
Slow man, Doesn’t overload
He just travels with his bodily weight”

If you do not recognize those Paul Simon words, it is because they were never set to music.  They exist only as a lyric.  I happened on them while searching for an image that captures my thought today.  That image was the phrase “Slow Man.”

What prompted me to think of that image in the first place?

While making my way along my most recent stage of the Via Vrancigena, a fellow pilgrim on his way to Rome, writing on the Facebook Page for those who share the path, said he was going all the way in 90 days.  Ninety days is the maximum a non-European can be in Europe at one go.  Allowing for crossing the channel, doing laundry and unpredictables, he will have to walk at least 16 miles a day.  God bless him and may he succeed, but that’s not for me.  I am a Slow Man and Pilgrim Life, for me, is about nourishing my Slow Man.

I am sitting in the bar of the Hotel Le Passe Temps

This is where I stayed in Arras six months ago having finished my first part of the Via Francigena last October.  What better place to resume my journey, nursing a St. Stefanus beer, and watching a couple on the other side of the room holding hands across the table as they converse. She is much younger than he. There is a story here, but one I shall never know.

I Have Re-entered The Path

Just sitting there make my pulse slow down.  That and the beer.  After an hour of sipping and thinking, and  a brief walk around the old center, renewing my recollection of the Grand Place and the Place Des Heros, I made my way to the pilgrim lodging I booked.  It was now time to head to my lodging, which turned out to be a house I remember passing six months ago. It fronts a little square along the main road where a statue of a bishop, this one quite modest, stands, and a few benches beckon tired legs. I remember sitting there last October.

Place des Heros, ArrasI ring the bell and my host answers, a woman in her forties. In the large kitchen/sitting room, she and another guest are speaking at a lightning pace. I gather through the few words I could snag, that we are both staying in a house across the street because it has heat.  My host had warned me that the temperatures would be very cool (frai) and would I prefer a room with a fire. Absolument!

However, it turns out that the heated place is a shared bathroom, and the bed is a fold out, and there is no wifi, which I really need. After telling her I would rather be cold than unable to commuicate, she took back across the street to rooms in the first house which are better equipped but have no heat.

No heat? How is that?

Because the house was built before central heat was possible, as in the 1700s.  After buying food across the street I come back and share the kitchen table with the other pilgrim, a woman named Frederique as it happens, and we have a fine time eating and talking in our fractured second languages about pilgrimage, family, etc.

Despite the cold, which I endured under a folded duvet and with clothes on, I did sleep enough.  The shower, necessary after sleeping in clothes, was hot but I had to towel off rapidement, and found myself wearing not only my usual clothes but my jacket and scarf and hat even inside. It was below 40 F in the house.

My host arrived with breakfast and her speedy speech, and prepared coffee and bread and a local confection that was something of a tart. All good, as was the company, each of us holding our cups in both hands to stay warm. Knowing that the trail was long, I prepared to leave, reaching escape velocity by 8:45.

Soon I am back outside, with my scarf knotted around my neck (very French!) and enjoying the feeling of my backpack and walking stick.  They feel like a friend’s handshake, from one you haven’t seen for too long.  Though cold the sun is out and within a half hour I am beyond the city and back in the countryside.

We all walk the path we need.

Mine is the one that reminds me I am a Slow Man.

About W. Frederick Wooden
Fred (technically Weldon Frederick) Wooden is a late life author, because he spent over forty years as a clergyman in six churches spread over five states. While doing that he wrote sermons and columns and wondered if any of it would matter in the long run. His notes from various travels, short stories written for fun, a memoir that morphed into a novel, a year of writing haiku as a spiritual exercise, are all ripening into books now that he has more time to edit and revise. Fred has led many lives - composer, pastor, pilgrim, political candidate, newspaper columnist, radio host, father and spouse. They have taken him from boyhood in Maryland to study in Missouri and Illinois, work in Massachusets, Austin Texas, Brooklyn NY and Grand Rapids Michigan. He has explored Mexico, New Mexico, Peru, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Turkey, India, China, Japan and Europe. Those who have read his travel accounts often say, "I feel like I am actually with you as you go." Fred takes you along whatever the journey he is on. You can read more about the author here.

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