Have you passed a rural threshold when you start thinking of the countryside as your friend? Your actual friend?
At one stage, I could probably have been just as happy living in the city and watching nature programmes on tv. There’s a difference between strolling around a city park, admiring the trees and flowers and living rurally. When we moved to Wales from London a decade ago, a lot of my friends at and my family were less than impressed. ‘What are you going to do there?’ ‘You’re going to the back of beyond.’ ‘There’s nothing there.’
Harsh… but some of the comments were true. This isn’t exactly the place to launch a high-profile career or enjoy the socio-cultural benefits that city-living offers. I mean, I had to drive four hours on Monday just for a doctor’s appointment. And yet, when I was driving Fin to the bog walk, I realised I was as excited as if I was going to see a friend. Wait a minute. The bog walk? My friend?
Everyone’s heard that nature is a healing experience. I’ve felt it provide perspective. I know its sense of calm. I’ve just never been that stoked to actually go and see it. It’s always a bit of a chore, especially with the responsibility of walking a dog – sorry, not sorry Fin. It’s usually the kind of thing I’m glad I did after I did it.
On this morning, I opened the car door. The first butterfly of the year fluttered past. Red and brazen. The trees were getting ready to flower. A pair of geese floated sedately on the lake. Babies must be coming soon. Walking back to the car, I saw the farmer drive into the field next door. He had a trailer with him. He opened its door and pulled out a ewe and two lambs. I put Fin in the boot of the car and sat next to her to watch the farmer. I had my hand on her collar to make sure she didn’t bolt for the smell.
The farmer was deft. His animals were out in no time. Satisfied, he retreated back to his car. But one of the lambs separated from its mother and sibling. It wanted to follow the farmer instead. He tried to shoo it off but the tiny lamb wasn’t having it. She stayed close by. The ewe had no such problem; she stood some way away with the other lamb. The farmer stared at the split family situation. I swear I could clock an eye roll.
This is the part that would have taken me ages to figure out. I would have chased the ewe, tried to bribe the solo lamb. The farmer went straight to the ewe. Here we go, I thought. I imagined the chase. Indeed the ewe started to bolt. He didn’t go after her though. In a few paces he’d grabbed the other little lamb. He held it by the front legs. The lamb dangled there quite sedately. Holding it in his grip, he began to move toward the wayward lamb. The ewe dutifully followed the farmer holding her baby.
‘Ah Finster, check it out.’ I scratched behind Fin’s soft ears. ‘He’s using the other lamb to reunite the lost lamb with its mother. I would have never figured that out.’ Fin’s gaze remained firmly on the field.