One of the books I enjoyed reading over the holidays was World Enough & Time: On Creativity and Slowing Down by Christian McEwen. How could I resist a title like that.

I was led to the book by an article by Christian McEwen in an issue of Shambhala Sun magazine. (I couldn’t find the article on line but did find a piece by Christian McEwen on how Buddhism helps her as a non-Buddhist. Here’s the link.

I became curious about the author and having checked her bio found out about World Enough & Time now its fifth printing. I also discovered a new publisher (new to me): Bauhan Publishing in New Hampshire

Having finished reading the book, I’d like to now begin again so as to savour the words over and over. Christian McEwen urges us to slow down, pause and reflect.

christianmcewenWorld Enough & Time is a pleasure to read for McEwen’s wisdom, the sharing of her own story as well as for the many reminders of beloved poets and writers like Virginia Woolf, Adrienne Rich, Audre Lorde, Henry David Thoreau and Thomas Merton. My favorite poets are included with quotes or excerpts of their work: Rainer Maria Rilke, Robert Hass, Denise Levertov, Muriel Rukeyser, William Stafford, Mary Oliver and Jane Hirschfield.

Other teachers and scholars such as environmentalist David Orr, philosopher William James, meditation teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn, theologian Matthew Fox, naturalist Barbara Bash, and medieval mystic Hildegard von Bingen are referred to and quoted.  McEwen also refers to her own friends and colleagues.

Statistics and facts are woven in about our present fast-paced lives. While they may be jarring in their impact they don’t impede the flow as the book is beautifully crafted. With minimal leisure time and little time for reflection we are suffering from “hurry sickness,” a phrase that originated with Dr. Larry Dossey. Even words that were once hyphenated now lack the hyphen as “we no longer have time to reach over to the hyphen key!”

Among my favorite chapters were “The Intensest Rendezvous” about the joy of reading and “Learning to Pause” with some advice from Brother David Steindl-Rast on lighting a candle that itself can be seen as prayer. McEwen also describes her home altar and recalls her time in Plum Village in France, home of Zen Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh. He advises: “Take care of the joyful present so that it can be the joyful past.”

“Across the Bridge of Dreams” is a fascinating chapter in which McEwen writes of Harriet Tubman who dreamed precise escape routes for the underground railroad which carried slaves into freedom and Mexican artist Frida Kahlo who would daydream about an imaginary friend.

Each chapter is divided into eight to ten shorter sections so even focusing on one short section each day will give readers a chance to muse and be encouraged in their own creative practice. “Tactics” at the end of each chapter offer suggestions for further exploration as well as a couple of quotes to ponder.

McEwen writes that “it should gradually become apparent that through the door of the ordinary, when treated with curiosity and respect, the extraordinary can appear: a song, a tale, a painting, a new poem.”  There are simple steps we can take in “pockets of slowness concealed inside each ordinary day.”  We can find “ten minutes in the morning in which to write down our dreams, five minutes in the late afternoon in which to stand by a window and watch the changing colors of the sunset, another pause before bed for a brief moment of prayer.”

While writing World Enough & Time, McEwen explored “the ways in which ordinary joy might flourish in a culture addicted to speed and over-work.” As a reader, I got to do that sort of exploration too.  The book is definitely the compendium McEwen intended “to which readers can turn again and again in search of nourishment.”

TortoiseDiaries In 2014, Bahan Publishing released The Tortoise Diaries: Daily Meditations on Creativity and Slowing Down. It’s a mini treasure-hosue of poems and quotations based on the twelve chapters of Christian McEwen’s World Enough & Time . You can find my review of The Tortoise Diaries on the Story Circle Book Reviews website here.

Christian McEwen was born in London and grew up in the Borders of Scotland and currently lives in Northampton, Massachusetts.  She has taught poetry, creative writing, and environmental literature at a number of venues including the Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh and the New School in New York. She has edited four anthologies and helped produce the documentary film Tomboys! I like the look of McEwen’s new book coming out in April 2015, also from Bauhan Publishing: Sparks from the Anvil: The Smith College Poetry Interviews. Over the past five years, McEwen interviewed more than thirty visiting poets as they came to read at Smith, among them Gwyneth Lewis, Edward Hirsch, Chase Twichell, Maxine Kumin, and Yusef Komunyakaa. That gives me an idea for all the poets that visit, and already live in, Nanaimo. You can visit the author’s website at