Recently during windshield time headed home from our first workday at the Farm in a year, I couldn’t help digesting life since last April third. Many of those events require handling in my head at the moment they pop up, others I continue to pack away to deal with another time when I have more “room.” And much of it I merely give up to God, lightening my soul and making room for the good stuff I want to make my life about now.
While thinking about the past year the phrase, “what just happened” often pops into my head. A few years ago someone else spontaneously asked that same question.
Though it was a different situation of dealing with chaos the process of working through it is always the same. The memory never fails to bring me laughter. Mike gave me the opportunity to work with my friend Kathy’s son Michael and his beautiful silver Border Collie Winston, one-on-one.
Michael and Winston had come a long way over the summer and into the fall in their work. One particularly blustery day – with the threat of even worse weather to come – we were working quickly to get as many dogs in before the real weather arrived. Michael and Winston arrived early. We got right to work and walking up to the gate I told him the weather could provide some surprises and to be ready.
After a textbook release and gather the wind and rain picked up and the sheep sought out the safety of a tree in the field and declined to play. Winston became frustrated, burst through his threshold and resorted to his old behavior, scattering sheep in frantic chase mode.
Michael did a great job handling Winston, staying calm and applying every tool he had learned to bring the situation safely under control. Winston – visibly shattered by the adrenaline rush that pushed him over threshold – plunked himself down a few feet away from Michael. His wide yellow-green eyes blinked a few times as if to clear his brain and he stared straight ahead at nothing, looking a whole lot like Wiley E. after yet another failed attempt to catch the Roadrunner.
I will never forget the scene of six-foot-plus rain-soaked Michael in the middle of the field with sheets of rain cascading off his bucket hat wearing a stunned look that matched his dogs. He reached his arms out to Winston exclaiming, “Buddy – what just happened!?”
What just happened indeed! Normalcy blasted away, chaos ensued and here they found themselves on the other side of it, a little worse for the wear though smarter…oh, so much smarter for the experience.
There was no need to reiterate the lesson or Michael’s handling of it when they came off the field. He knew he had passed the test. The lesson – provided by nature – included a few stumbles in the sequence. Though he engaged and summoned the muscle and mental memory to assess the conditions and work through them in “real-time life.” Michael and Winston conquered a crucial lesson in their herding game and earned the gold star of confidence in their ability to follow through and properly resolve crisis. That day remains one of my favorite memories at the Farm.
Now it is my turn to assess, gather confidence and follow through on the lessons this walkabout has provided me. I have struggled writing because much of what I am dealing with mentally – I can’t even stand how it sounds coming out of my mouth or my fingers on the keyboard. When I read it I have to erase it – feels too much like complaining though I know it is a simple human reaction to surviving, for the time being, a terminal disease. A lot of changes are happening in cutting the deck of cards of life and it is often overwhelming.
Like Michael and Winston that stormy fall Florida day, on the other side of it all I find myself a little stunned, knocked off kilter by a sudden storm. It is just so hard to believe it all happened. I am so grateful to be here, even merely performing the simple tasks of living life which all of last year I wondered if I would ever do again.
So, my best answer to the question, “what just happened?”
Life just happened – and life – just is.