Saturday, April 16, 2005

Lessons From The (Llama) Field

Just east of Micanopy, where the county road know by us as The Cross Creek Road joins Highway 441, there lies a pasture known by us as The Llama Field. The 10- or so acre pasture is home to a band of ewes with their new lambs and a band of llamas and their young, perhaps 30 animals in all. I pass by the field each day during the morning and evening drive to and from work in Gainesville, and so I am able to make brief observations of the place, and even learn some lessons.

Generally the sheep are milling about seemingly oblivious to any outside stimuli.
Something there is about a mouthful of grass that turns sheep into deeply contemplative creatures.
These sheep don't seem to do much else besides stand around and slowly, metronomically, chew...chew…chew, as if entranced in some
hypnotic state. We’ve all seen people like that, and they vote.

In contrast, one or more of the adult llamas is always alert, turns to face whatever has its attention, and is more than ready to snort or stamp the alarm, fume and spit in defiance or disapproval, or just plain bolt off in a huff. We’ve all met people like that too, and sometimes we don’t like them very much.

When I hear someone growling on about being “empowered” I commonly think this: You either think
the rest of us are predators that threaten you, or else you think we're all just dumb sheep who need the blustering of one such as you to protect us from ourselves. Now, I firmly believe that one should stand up for one's self. However, standing up for what is right doesn't mean one need be a crabby sharp-toothed old buzzsaw all the time. I guess, like my dear mother, I consider patience and meekness to be virtues that apply in most situations.

Sometime last year, a pair of helium-filled mylar balloons got loose from a child's grasp and floated away, only to become snagged in the top of an oak tree in the llama field. The hurricanes of last summer blew down a few trees, including the one the balloons had become lodged in. Fast-forward to the present. The balloons are still there, in the top of the fallen oak tree, but are now just 3 feet off the ground within easy reach of even a child. I'm not sure of the lessons to be learned there, but several phrases come to mind: What goes up eventually comes down; chickens come home to roost; even a lost balloon may outlive the tree that it catches in; and, nothing is ever truly lost.
Don't ever keep your good ideas, dreams and good intentions to yourself. Float them out there with patience and meekness for all to see and share. They may get away from you and may even soar beyond your grasp, but they may be found and taken up by strangers and outlive you after all.
Those are lessons I learned from two balloons and a llama field.

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