Off the Record

"South Whidbey: The tortoise or the hare?Slow and steady wins the race. So sayeth Aesop in The Hare and the Tortoise, one of hundreds of animal fables written around 550 B.C. I don't know what Aesop the Greek would say about the world of today. It's nothing about slow, and everything about fast. Fast food, fast cars, fast money, fast folks. Life in the fast lane.Not surprisingly, there are people who want to slow things down...way down. An international movement called Slow Food sprouted in Italy in 1989 as a reaction to the proliferation of fast food restaurants in their cities and towns. Their motto: For the defence of and the right to pleasure. Appropriately, their logo is a snail. Today, there are some 40,000 members in 35 countries, all food and wine enthusiasts who want to retain the true taste of traditional foodstuffs from around the world...and who share in the slowness of the snail. They even have their own quarterly magazine titled Slow. Aesop would be proud. Growing out of this Slow Food movement emerged Slow Cities, a group of nearly three dozen Italian towns and cities who have banded together to promote quality of life for its citizens. Their manifesto of November 1999 reads:In the beginning, man found food. Then he sought shelter and protection: dwellings, villages and towns sprang up. Finally, came the time of machines, and rhythms of life became increasingly feverish and frantic. Today man dreams of liberation from the many anxieties that his own project has created. He is looking for more serene, tranquil, reflective ways of life. At the end of the contradictory, restless 20th century, the wise man proposes salvation and the model of cities where the living is easy.Italian towns and cities such as Asti, Orvieto, Todi, Trevi and Positano are keen on time refound and hope to maintain communities that are packed with squares, theatres, workshops, cafes, restaurants, places of worship, uncontaminated landscapes and the pliers of fascinating crafts. They also want to be places where man still recognizes the slow, beneficial succession of the seasons; the wholesomeness of tasty, healthy produce; the spontaneity of natural rites; the cult of living tradition; and the joy of slow, quiet, reflective living.The Slow Cities logo also features a snail...but this time crawling between two buildings, one ancient and the other new. South Whidbey is at the crossroads when it comes to what kind of place and pace we're gonna be. Fast and furious or steady and slow?I vote for slow...but it's getting tougher to maintain that speed. The other day, while turning onto Saratoga Road from the lane where I live in Langley, a self-proclaimed road warrior in a non-military tank was within inches from my trunk. I was going 25, the posted speed limit. He wanted to go 65, his personal speed limit. I didn't budge.So what's slow got to do with it? Do we have to be fast to be so-called winners? Are we going to replicate all those places where we have no desire to vacation or live?Here's a refresher course in Aesop's famous fable: The Hare was once boasting of his speed before the other animals. I have never yet been beaten, said he, when I put forth my full speed. I challenge any one here to race with me. The tortoise said quietly, I accept your challenge.That is a good joke, said the Hare. I could dance round you all the way.Keep your boasting till you've beaten, answered the Tortoise. Shall we race?So a course was fixed and a start was made. The Hare darted almost out of sight at once, but soon stopped and, to show his contempt for the Tortoise, lay down to have a nap. The Tortoise plodded on and plodded on, and when the Hare awoke from his nap, he saw the Tortoise just near the winning post and could not run up in time to save the race. Then said the Tortoise:Plodding wins the race.When election time rolls around in September, there's no question as to who I'm gonna vote for: tortoises and snails. They're my critters of choice.Sue Frause can be reached via email at "

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