Early morning sheep (Image by: L Taylor)
The good people of Southern England recently successfully voted for the first ever Green Party candidate to become a Member of Parliament (“MP”). I am sure that this made a huge difference to our region (yes, there is a little bit of tongue in my cheek there – maybe I’ll return to this at some future date) but one thing that our new MP did was introduce sheep-grazing on a local open parkland adjacent to the South Downs National Park.
This particular area is populated on one side by houses and is regularly frequented by pretty much all the local dog-walking fraternity; many of whom enjoy throwing tennis balls for their beloved four-legged friends to chase, me included. So you can imagine our immense pleasure on the arrival of a giant electronic pen which heavily restricted our ability to carry out these daily rituals. Of course, we dog-walkers were concerned about the well-being of our little friends and immediately curtailed all ball-throwing and chasing activities, even going so far as to avoid walking past the pen (some of us happen to have rather excitable friends who would love to say “hello” to any sheep that found itself too close to the fence).
The sheep otherwise were quite nonchalant and carried on munching away at the grass and plants until little was left but bare earth. From time to time they were moved to another area of the parkland until finally they were herded off for the winter. Come the spring they were back again and great wafts of the “fresh outdoors” greeted anyone venturing outside their homes. This time however they were much closer to my usual early morning route.
By the time the sheep returned I had stepped out on my journey of changing my whole attitude to life. Perhaps it was this that gave me pause to look up and notice the sheep. I had of course “noticed” them before but only in the same way you notice that the rubbish bins haven’t been emptied or the plants need watering. What I mean is that I no longer thought of them as an annoyance. Instead I watched their early morning stretches, their reaction to dogs and people and became aware of their habits.
It was then only a slippery slope until I was almost looking forward to spending a few minutes each morning watching them as I walked by and, eventually, wishing them a good morning. In turn they gradually got used to us walking by and would often stand as close to the fence as they dared, bleating and wishing us well (ok, maybe I just imagined that bit).
One morning I set off for the fields again in high-spirits looking forward to our usual morning encounter when, to my great sadness, I found them gone.
Before you click away from this post convinced that my marbles have finally rolled away (too late – they rolled off a long time ago), the point of my post is that my encounter with the sheep reminded me of the poem “Leisure” by W.H. Davies. I had walked past the sheep so many times before and never taken the time to really see them, to notice their individual characters and to appreciate them just for being there. Then all too soon they were gone.
How much more does this apply to the rest of life? We only have one stab at it and too often we only have limited opportunities to notice the little things, whether that be other people whose lives we can touch and who can reach out to us or something as simple as the beauty of the world around us. Before we know it the people will be gone, our hearts will have turned to stone so we miss the beauty before us and we will have missed the moment.
Take a moment with your cup of tea (or coffee…just for you, Sue), read and enjoy.
Leisure (W.H. Davies)
“WHAT is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?—
No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:
No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.”