"Why, here shall they stay, and my thanks to you." he exclaimed. "There's no grazing fresher and sweeter, and no sheepfold safer. We've seen to that and labored since the first thaw to make it so."
. "But I fear they may crowd your own flock," Taran said, though he admired Llonio's pastureland and the stoutly built enclosure, and would have been well content to leave the sheep with him.
. "My flock?" Llonio answered, laughing. "I had none until this moment! Though we've been hoping and waiting and the children have been talking of little else. A lucky wind it was that brought you to us. Gowein, my wife, needs wool to clothe our young ones. Now we'll have fleece and to spare."
. "Wait, wait," put in Taran, altogether baffled, "do you mean you cleared a pasture and built a sheepfold without having any sheep at all? I don't understand. That was work in vain--"
. "Was it now?" asked Llonio, winking shrewdly. "If I hadn't, would you be offering me a fine flock in the first place; and in the second, would I have the place to keep them? Is that not so?"
. "But you couldn't have known," Taran began.
. "Ah, ah," Llonio chuckled, "why, look you, I knew that with any kind of luck a flock of sheep was bound to come along one day. Everything else does!"
My mind loves the idea of this idea. I slide right up to it, circle round, peer over the paddock fence and can almost imagine myself behaving this way. But not quite. I've got 45 years of practice chasing the next step. You know - get good grades so you can get into a good college, get that Degree so you can get a good job, work diligently so you can retire, yada yada yada.....
The idea of being still, polishing the tools and resources I've already gained seems so, well, lazy. If you aren't chasing the next step, the bigger better thing, aren't you just settling? But when I take stock of my skills, what I know and what I can do, I'm glad to see my favorite things: permaculture, herbal medicine, physical fitness, clothing design, food preservation and powerful nutrition. I am also overwhelmed by how much I still have to learn and to do within these areas. Permaculture truly isn't real if it's still sitting on a bookshelf and the green medicine chest does no good if I've never taught my family how to use the herbs when I'm too ill to help myself. I could indeed spend a lifetime deepening my understanding and honing my crafts, both for myself and to share with others.
Conventional wisdom says this would all be great if I could somehow make a living at it. And just like that, I lose sight of the idea and am off chasing a new business plan. That path is a well-traveled Express Lane with no outlets for many many miles. I'm getting better at pulling over to check the map sooner rather than later but it still requires a stiff discipline.
Recently though, I've learned a new trick. The map reference I'm using isn't the end goal but rather my home point. Stated in terms of Llonio and Taran, I try not to chase all over the countryside after a flock of sheep. Jeff placed this in perfect context when he shared with me his thoughts about a new book reviewed in a NY Times article by Jane Brody. The book, "30 Lessons for Living" (Hudson Street Press) offers advice from more than 1,000 older Americans from different economic, educational and occupational strata who were interviewed as part of the ongoing Cornell Legacy Projects. Brody writes:
"ON HAPPINESS Almost to a person, the elders viewed happiness as a choice, not the result of how life treats you. A 75-year-old man said, “You are not responsible for all the things that happen to you, but you are completely in control of your attitude and your reactions to them.” An 84-year-old said, “Adopt a policy of being joyful.”Jeff felt that Llonio had that attitude and could make lemonade from lemons. He was also patient and very creative. Stuff would come his way which most people wouldn't even realize was passing so closely because they would be too busy working to acquire new things - off chasing a flock of sheep. Like the elders, Llonio recognized that the stream was always moving, always bringing stuff with it. He couldn't choose what life brought him, but he did recognize that it was something. He just needed to be good at trapping those offerings and eventually the accumulated resources could indeed make something quite extraordinary.
Jeff, impressed by Llonio's humility in learning to see what life offered him, is also inspired by his diligence in trapping it. Scraps from others' lives are treasured finds. So when Taran showed up, the trap had been set. Not in a deceitful manner as in getting something for nothing, but with a joyful curiosity and patience for what life brings and where it takes us.
I in turn was impressed, inspired, and soothed by Jeff's sweet call to action, "Who knows what will come our way today. Do we have the vision to see it and have we set the trap to bring it into our lives?"