Second Vermont Republic

A citizen movement committed to restoring Vermont to an independent republic, free to pursue life, liberty and happiness unimpeded by the demands of an imperial, corrupt and disintegrating United States.

Slowpoke: The Spoken Word of a Slower Pace, by Mark Schimmoeller (BOOK REVIEW)



There are many of us who graduate college and find ourselves needing to rush into this “real world” as we like to call it, at the age of 22. We sometimes feel we are certain as to what we want to do with the rest of our lives at this young age, however there are also some of us 22-year-olds who will graduate with a degree, and have no clue what we want for our future. What an incredibly young age to even be thinking about the rest of one’s life. We have had no choice but grow in a world where our perspectives are severely altered by society, into thinking that we should go to college, and plan out the rest of our lives. Well, the ‘rest of our lives’ has been far too rushed in the world we live in, and Mark Schimmoeller would agree. People who are rushing to plan out their lives will possibly end up unhappy. Schimmoeller begins by finding what he loves and looking for a sense of relief in this fast world by riding his unicycle in the year 1992, from North Carolina across the country to Arizona and writing a memoir; Slowspoke: A Unicyclist’s Guide to America. “I would put my backpack on, strap the canteen over me, and launch myself on the unicycle. Just three things to remember” (Schimmoeller, 9).

Schimmoeller grew up on a homestead, which allowed for his appreciation for nature and off-the-grid lifestyles to develop in his early years. After Mark graduated college, he went off to New York City to work for a magazine internship. This lifestyle was far too unsettling for him, and he decided to take on a bit of off-the-grid, become a slowpoke and start homesteading with his dearly beloved wife back home in Kentucky. There he lives in efforts to save the forest behind his home that was once going to be cut down for logging. “By cutting between the two stories of homesteading in Kentucky and his travelings on a unicycle, Schimmoeller creates plenty of room for readers to understand and appreciate the slow, natural pace he exemplifies. “This spring I’ve been less inclined to do what a path entices us to do: follow something to it’s end” (Schimmoeller, 14). Mark telling us about his present life, allows readers to grasp what this unicycle trip has ultimately done to Mark’s mentality and also his perspectives on nature. “I remember touching a hickory leaf bud and being surprised to discover that the brown base was soft and furry, more like an animal than a plant” (Schimmoeller, 14).

Schimmoeller had a desire to share his love for this rare spirituality he practiced. Remember first learning how to ride a bike, first starting with training wheels and then eventually improving to two wheels? Well were you ever interested in being a clown riding around on a rare one wheeler juggling bowling pins? Well, I’ll tell you it’s not only for clowns. The rare-ness of a unicycle brought meaning to Schimmoeller’s travels. The slow, methodical tool brings a sort of meditation to Schimmoeller while living in this fast paced world. Not only was it the meditation, that brought joy and happiness, but the playfulness of one wheel beneath his body, all controlled by his feet. “I would look up at the trees at this time, and I would think that there could be no better visual image to describe how it feels to be on a unicycle” (Schimmoeller, 14). The memoir focuses on mind-body connections Schimmoeller found throughout his journey.

We tend to forget the importance of the body coming into unison with the mind. From my perspective, the unicycle serves as a symbol to portray this unity we must find within ourselves. The routine of school, work, and money has taken control of our lives and we forget about a crucial part of our health. Pills, migraines, alcohol, illness, naps, television- forget all that! How ‘bout we just try a much simpler path to happiness; find what you love to do, find what makes you get out of bed in the morning.

After the unsettling feeling of college and his internship, Schimmoeller found a reason to take-off and live life by his own watch, in his own mode of time. He says, “What did it mean to have time? You had it or you didn’t have it. Yet even if you didn’t have it, time still existed. The earth still rotated in space. The fact that so many people were running out of time on a planet whose motion hadn’t changed significantly for eons seemed odd to me” (Schimmoeller, 130). We have constructed different meanings that continue to harm us because we are always rushing: to be on time, get somewhere before close, complete a task before a deadline. We are damaging our minds connection with our bodies when we race to a ‘finish-line’. What is the rush?

I really enjoyed the quote from one of Mark’s principle guides, “In squandering time you demonstrate its availability” (130). He constantly talks about pace and speed, and what little it matters to him. He completed his journey to find rest and relief in a troubled world.  Mark didn’t combine his time and miles, only because it continued to get him thinking about speed. He found he would be rushing, where the whole entirety of riding the unicycle across country was for that main reason; to find beauty in a slow pace of life.

However, I find it fascinating that there were different complexities in situations where Schimmoeller would actually feel the need for a fast pace. Sometimes he was in a hurry to get to a store before it closed, and therefore he was forced by societal ways to abide by the notion of time. However, natural occurrences like rain storms and all sorts of other types of harsh weather conditions also made him rush around on his one-wheel. This to me is magnificent to see the tone of voice he uses when he distinguishing between the two different modes of “going fast”. When natural occurrences required Mark to go fast, you can still feel his slow methodical love for the unicycle and his body. The language he uses when society was requiring him to rush around makes you feel anxious and really understand his bitterness for the fast pace lifestyle that has developed in our world today.

Mark reveals the back roads of America, and is known to have taken the tiny roads that headed west. He found taking the longer back roads restrained him from rushing on his unicycle even more, and he could embrace the wildlife and landscape. “I liked it better without people. Things were what they were” (Schimmoeller, 211). This travel seems not only to have been a physical challenge, but also took a very disciplined mentality to complete. It is important we find the “back roads” within our lives, put one wheel on the ground and be “..tangential to America, arms open wide, adjusting the horizon to help ease [ourselves] into it” (Schimmoeller, 211).

Slowspoke will keep readers thinking about a philosophy driven by love for the land, body and our soul. It is a great read for those whom are constantly stressed by time management. It gets you understanding that time is not something that should be measured by “how much” can be done within that frame, rather what it is that is being accomplished and how it is making your mind and body feel. “Yet choosing a unicycle was deliberate, I reminded myself. I didn’t want to be rushed” (Schimmoeller, 130).

MegEllen Kimmett is a student at Saint Michael’s College in Colchester, Vermont.

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This entry was posted on October 12, 2015 by in Arts and tagged , , , , .

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