Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Slow Love

Slow Love

No matter how much we hear about its beneficial effects, few of us willingly invite change into our lives.  But it comes anyway.  An uninvited guest, it shows up to spoil our comfortable existence, usually when we least expect it and often accompanied by its cohorts of upheaval, anxiety and fear.  And oh, how we resent it.  Too easily creatures of habit, we stand shocked in the face of any alteration to our well ordered days, unsure of which way to turn when the lane we have followed for so long has disappeared in the mist.  But as Edith Wharton once wrote, “Habit is necessary; it is the habit of having habits, of turning a trail into a rut, that must be incessantly fought against if one is to remain alive”.   So, we change.

Many of you are familiar with Dominique Browning.  As the editor of House and Garden during its most creative years, her beautifully written monthly columns were reason enough to subscribe to that magazine.  I, along with many, looked forward to its appearance in my mailbox each month, until one month, it was gone.  No previous issue held any hint of its impending demise, there were no warnings or rumours - it was there, and then it was not.  I, again along with many, was shocked at its loss.  And if I was shocked, just imagine how Ms. Browning felt.  Suddenly unemployed, and with the magazine she had led now vanished like an early morning dream, she found herself, not unlike so many others over these last fitful years, forced into a solitary reevaluation of her life, and one that she had neither requested nor planned for.

Happily for all of us, she has written an account of this slippery period in her new book, Slow Love - How I Lost My Job, Put On My Pajamas and Found Happiness.  It is a book with an honest bravery on every page, and one I cannot recommend highly enough.  
We follow Ms. Browning through her often rather amusing stages of grief at the loss of who she once thought she was - from her three am piano playing, her new found addiction to cookies, her love of the perfectly designed pair of pajamas (drawstrings are the key here), and finally, to her painful decision to sell her house and begin a new, less cloudy, life.  As someone who loves my house with a passion, I nodded with recognition over her wretched first meeting with the realtor who was selling her home of many years, knowing full well that the words coming out of that woman’s mouth would be the same she would utter to me in that  situation...”Have you actually read all these books?  What an unusual colour on the walls.  What would you call that?". 
Fact is, I found my head nodding throughout this book.  How can I not feel a connection with a woman who, even though being at the pinnacle of professional design for years still says that her “basic decorating rule of thumb is to create as many lovely places in which to sit and read as possible.”   I found it more difficult to relate to her mercurial love of many years, called Stroller in the book, for his irritatingly constant tendency to stroll out of her life.  (He apparently objected to the name Walker, which was originally slated to be his nom de plume.  Personally, I would have christened him Slinker. ) 

I suppose the main reason this book resonated with me in such a warm way, can be found in the conclusions Ms. Browning reaches in her journey, for they are the ones I have championed most of my life.  The ones that qualify most as Slow Love.  It is no surprise to me that her equilibrium returns through the creation of a new garden, for it has always been in the midst of the natural world that I myself have found the beauty and meaning in life.  The hand of God in the trees. 
 This little book is so replete with wisdom, words that burrow into one’s heart and take root, words to turn over and over in one’s hand like a talisman.  When the skies begin to clear for Ms. Browning, we know they are skies washed clean by a storm.  A storm of unexpected change.

 In my mother’s generation, women held onto a book called A Gift From The Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh.  It spoke to them of their place in the shifting sands of their lives - they could see themselves on its pages.  Slow Love seems rightfully destined to become that for this generation of women caught as so many of us are in these often confusing, and changeable, days.  
Do yourself a favour and read it. 
 Then give it to somebody else.

You can find the book HERE.
I am also happy to report that Dominique Browning has joined the world of blogging, with her delightful blog, SlowLoveLife.  Pay her a visit!

Painting above by Pierre Bonnard
Edith Wharton quotation from her autobiography, A Backward Glance


  1. Dear Pamela, It is surely a lesson for all of us that there are no certainties in Life and, perhaps more reassuringly, that nothing stays the same for very long.

    I shall certainly seek out Dominique's book and blog for, even in your brief review, I can see that she will have much to say that I can readily identify with. Who knows, I may also be able to track down that perfect pair of pyjamas!!

  2. What a thoughtful and thought provoking review of Dominique's book, Pamela. I am familiar with her blog and appreciate your words on, well, on her words and will look forward to reading her book on your excellently penned (or is it wordsmithed?) recommendation.

  3. What a beautiful post and I will most certainly be adding this book to my list of ones to bring onto the boat when space allows ;-)

    I particularly love how you comment that we find the true beauty and meaning of life within nature. Recently I have been remarking a lot that living so deeply within nature as I now do, I have a much calmer approach to what life is about.

    There is a quote somewhere that I read that says something like - that for us to find comfort/understanding in life, we must live and observe nature. I believe this wholeheartedly to be true. x

  4. Thanks Pamela.
    I long for a settled life, but each day is so unvaryingly changing that perhaps it is...

    Sounds interesting, and thanks for the link.

  5. Sounds wonderful... and, yes, I can't even IMAGINE a realtor walking into my house.... the first thing she might say is... and do those sticks STAY in here or are they your kindling... and how about all those stones....?
    My house certainly doesn't look like houses in magazines...!!!

  6. Dear Pamela & Edward, Thank you for your visit and sweet comment. I know exactly what you are saying about Dominique’s writing. I loved that mag and her words...what a loss.! I shall seek out her book...I love the idea of being in pj’s or as I call them “my flannel
    suit”. I look forward to a good read. hugs to you both.Cynthia

  7. such a wonderfully written post Pamela, the book is now on my list of must reads, thank you :)

  8. Did you read A.M. Lindbergh, The Flower & The Nettle?

    An old copy handed to me by my husband's grandmother, we were standing in her driveway. Young, newly married I was living in her garage apt.

    She knew I was sinking before I did.

    Have been reading & gardening since. Plenty of torpedoes, and I haven't sunk yet.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

  9. I've been a big fan of Dominique's for many, many years. I experienced so many of the same things she did when I found myself in the same situation - although I came from the world of dance instead of the publishing world. I adored the book and have read it twice. Her blog makes me happy.

    Great post, Pamela.

  10. Dear Pamela,
    Your review has really made me want the book and a visit to her blog is a must. XXXX

  11. Thanks. I ordered the book from Amazon right away.

  12. That book sounds marvelous! I really need to seek it out, thank you!

  13. What a beautiful review, and most appropriate suggestion to purchase and read the book. This is an unusual time for a lot of people. If she succeeded in reinventing herself, more power to her, and a great lesson for all of us. Thanks for showcasing this book.

  14. I adore Dominique and her blog, excited to get her book! Thank you for featuring her!!

    Art by Karena

  15. Thanks to this beautifully written post I'm going to buy the book and in the mean time go and explore Ms Browning's blog.

  16. Your lovely post brought to mind a comment about change in a private letter from Churchill to a depressed De Gaulle written at the darkest days of 1940 when all was black, defeat seemed likely and invasion was imminent. 'Faith is given to us to help and comfort us when we stand in awe before the unfurling scroll of human destiny. And I proclaim my faith that some of us will live to see a Fourteenth of July when a liberated France will one again rejoice in her greatness and glory'.

  17. I think you have given to me just the post I needed to read today....thank you, Pamela.

    As a long ago fan of Dominique, your words sent me home.

  18. Thanks for this post Pamela. This is the second time this week this book as been put in front of me. I'm going to get it. After 10 years of a successful job in custom home building, I was laid off in April. I know those feelings all to well and I believe I'm suppose to read this book.
    Thank you.

  19. This book sounds my cup of tea, I shall chase it now...and the blog. Thank you for this.
    I agree with you re. the peace of the garden. Now I am outside a great deal spending time creating 'spaces' in the garden and have noticed that I feel at ease and free from worry there, it is a bit like meditation. I loved Gift from the Sea too.

  20. Hello P&E,

    Ms Browning is fortunate to have been able to redeploy her talents. It may take a while to re-adjust but such talent rarely remains idle for long.

  21. You have brought home to all of us Pamela, that we shouldn't get too complacent. Just when we are really comfortably in a rut something will happen to turn our world upside down. These changes can be so positive if we look at them in the right way. I checked out DB's blog and it looks very interesting and I will check it out with a cup of tea in hand.

  22. Great Post Pamela. I have also had my life rearranged by unforseen circumstances and I'm happy for it, although it was painful at the time. Thanks for recommending this book. I will definately read it and I went to her blog and enjoyed that as well.

  23. This is lovely! You have really whetted my appetite for this book. I have bookmarked its Amazon page - thanks for that (waiting for pay day!)

    I too had a 'Stroller' in my life (perhaps also a 'Slinker' - good description!) and life is much better without strollers, to be honest. I also love that rule of thumb when decorating that it should be about creating lovely places to sit and read - perfect.

  24. Fabulous review! Do email the author about it if you haven’t already as she’s unlikely to find it without a title on the post. It’s nice to see Browning turn her change into something so productive.

    I love that line about reading space. That is my kind of decorating. We have 2 living rooms in our house just so that there is space to read quietly or to talk. The other living room has the TV, piano and stereo. I also have comfortable reading spots in 2 more rooms.

    My mother told me about The Gift From the Sea, and it became one of my favorite books.

  25. I will look for this, sounds marvelous.

    It is Avedon, In the American West.

    well done!

  26. Dear Pamela,

    I find this so ironic. Just recently in my last post someone suggested I read her. Also added that we have much in common.

    Well I have never thought of this: “basic decorating rule of thumb is to create as many lovely places in which to sit and read as possible.” That is just right.

    As for your slinker comment, grrr. I rather liked your well-deserved claw mark - rare to see that from you, somehow a welcome new flavour :)

  27. Oh, it sounds good. I will look for it.
    I felt the same grief when suddenly Home Companion stopped coming to my mailbox. It's hard to let go of writing (and design) we love.

  28. Just ordered this book as a gift to myself...! I adore her honest voice and unsentimental look at the reality!
    Well said, as always, I am grateful for your voice, Pamela!


  29. The timing for me is just right to read this book. I've been out of a job for a month now. I worry the most, not about getting another job...yet...but about falling into the slough of laziness. Putting on your pajamas is an apt metaphor for being laid more ways than one.

  30. One of my favorite...always keep by the bedside books is "A Gift From the Sea" I can't wait to read "Slow Love" if you feel it is as good as that...Her blog is beautiful...I just spent some time looking around it and noticed that she has moved to RI...we're neighbors:)!

  31. Such a thought provoking post, Pamela. Just yesterday I read a quote by Lee Iacocca that said “We are continually faced by great opportunities brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems.” Both it and your post are strangely apt for me at the moment! I'll be checking out that book, most definitely!

  32. The book sounds wonderful. Change can be so hard and painful but sometimes so necessary.

  33. Hi Pamela,

    I loved reading your thought provoking post today.
    Our life's journey will be filled with change, both difficult and sweet.
    I look forward to reading this book and thank you for the recommendation.

    Happy weekend

  34. I often say that we could lock ourselves up to avoid change, but it will find us anyway, and the world will be changing outside the door as we hide. When I got my breast cancer diagnosis, it literally changed everything in a moment, it was scary and I fought against it with all my soul. But now that the dust has settled, and I am now 6 years on (!) , not dead yet!, I see that this awful painful and hard journey which I was sent on without my request, has been one of learning, understanding... what I have lost physically, in body part, strength, appearance, etc., I ahve gained in a spiritual way. WHich after all, is the only thing left to us when all else is stripped away. Change is inevitable and actually natural. Oh! I spend a lot of time in my pyjamas these days! Suzie xxx

  35. Yesterday I found myself in the magazine department of my usual store and suddenly thought how I very rarely buy them now I have discovered so many fascinating blogs. How we will miss those printed pages when they are gone for good.

  36. I am looking forward to reading this book. I agree with you about realtors. We have sold a house recently, and it wasn't easy to deal with their insensitivity regarding what we consider our treasures.

  37. I am halfway through and must go back to it. I think I don't want to reach the end. I wish she wrote a book a year or a month! I cannot stand that man and her 'need' - would you call it? for him. When my House & Garden stopped coming, I would troll the internet looking for pieces of writing, hoping she would publish something. I'm thrilled she now has a blog. It is a perfect medium for her, I think.


I love to read your comments! Each and every one! Though I'm always reading your comments, I may not respond in the comment section. If you want to write me directly, you may do so at Thank you for reading!