Chasing carrots

Because I couldn’t find a donkey…

It has been hot in England recently… hotter than usual, even for summer. There has been no rain in my part of the country for weeks now and the ground is parched and cracked. Harvests are being brought in early, fields are already shorn and neatly dotted with straw-bales, and the human population has been slowly wilting in the scorching, heavy air. So, it was with some eagerness that we awaited the promised rain and thunderstorms.

They didn’t arrive… The forecasters shifted their predictions to the next day, then the next… and all we had seen was a spot or two of moisture accompanied by a distant, lazy rumble of thunder. When the rain finally arrived last night, it was no more than the briefest of light showers. The dog and I, nevertheless, headed outside to enjoy the fall of water, watching its instant evaporation on the superheated concrete of the paving, but glad of the momentary respite.

Although the weather is a national preoccupation in England, we generally don’t suffer too badly from its vagaries. Ours is temperate climate. Summers are generally warm, winters cold but not glacial… but whatever the weather is doing, we will soon be complaining about it. On the odd occasion, we do get a severe winter… by English standards… or an unusually hot summer. We are prepared for neither, and both can bring the country to its knees at temperatures other nations would consider mild. We don’t cope well with what we consider extremes of anything… be that weather or behaviour…

There is a ‘normal’ for everyone… parameters within which we are comfortable, because they are familiar. They do not have to be good, or what we would choose… they are just our accustomed and accepted standards of normality. Step beyond their boundaries and, depending upon your temperament, you are in a zone of unease, or one of excitement. Such boundaries shift and change with time and circumstance… and the adaptability that is one of humanity’s greatest assets can also be its greatest handicap, as we learn to accept a new ‘normal’ very quickly and alter the parameters to suit the moment.

I was talking to my son about this as we headed out to the local farm shop on Saturday. Because of the changes in his life and capabilities caused by the brain injury, he has been redefining his ‘normal’ on a regular basis. He tends to forget where he has come from, and what he has endured and achieved to get here, and the latest version of ‘normality’ takes a great deal of the journey for granted.

We took the country lanes back to my home after we had done the shopping, stopping by a field gate so he could get out, lean on the gate, and watch the fast-forming clouds race in. It is a simple thing, but I remembered the first time he was able to do that a few years ago… and the wonder we both felt at that achievement.

This time I watched as he lost himself in the moment, seeing emotions on his face shift from bright to dark and back again, like the cloud-shadows on the land. The wind was getting stronger as dark clouds raced in. The little bit of rain had enhanced all the colours, turning the dry grasses to gold and illuminating the green of the hedgerows, where blackberries glistened amongst the wildflowers. The changing weather and the experience of beauty lifted him out of his normality and allowed him to see what he might otherwise not have noticed.

“You forget,” he mused. “You strive for a goal, but as soon as you attain it, there is always another ahead…. And the goal you just reached becomes worthless, no more than a stepping stone…when you should be content.”
“Carrots.”
“Eh?”
“Carrots on sticks. Donkeys. The donkey keeps walking to where it thinks the carrot was… and when it gets there, the carrot has moved, so it keeps on walking… but the carrot is always out of reach.”
“Expectations. Yep… We do that to ourselves all the time. It didn’t rain… I could be disappointed because I expected rain… but what the day has given me instead,” said the son who had just used his walking frame to cross the rough terrain of a farmyard…and in public… for the first time, “is even better.”

As we drove home, the clouds closed in above us, darkening the sky, deepening all the colours of the land. The wind gathered momentum, whipping sun-dried leaves from the trees into great golden plumes that danced across the road like aureate autumnal spirits. The earth smelled sweet and fresh as the rain poured down on the wide vale below us. Sometimes, you just have to leave expectations behind and leave space for life to happen.

23 thoughts on “Chasing carrots

  1. My sentiments exactly Sue. Hubby and I both hate the heat. We’re not used to it, and can’t handle it. We had a thunderstorm in the early hours of Friday morning, but it did nothing to ease temperatures, or tempers! However, later it was a different story, and the change in the atmosphere here is amazing. I haven’t had a full night’s sleep for months, but last night came close to it, only waking once at 1.55 then falling back to sleep until 5.15. I got up and let the dog out, then went back to bed and we both dozed for a couple of hours. It was heaven to actually feel cool.

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  2. Wise words about not chasing carrots. I have to say, though, that there were no complaints from me when we had the hot sunny weather. Now, though, it’s different! Yesterday I got off the bus in a deluge and had to stop to buy a pair of trousers on the way to work as I was soaked to the skin. It’s still raining. I’m worried it won’t remember to stop and let the sunshine back.

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  3. Beautiful story Sue. I’m happy to hear of Nick’s progress. I don’t see him around blogtown anymore.
    Also glad you got the blessed rain. The weather has been extra crazy here all week – total overcast with the same humidity and heat and then around 4pmish the wind picks up and a minor thunderstorm hits with heavy rain, almost punctually for a week now. I supposed the lunar eclipse and mercury retrograde collision should ramp up the craziness for awhile longer. 🙂 xx

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  4. Reblogged on Facebook, Google, Linkedin and I think Twitter. This is one of the best posts I can remember related to how we perceive things in life. I have lived in places where I used to think there must be something bad in the water that the people were all so negative and so bad in behavior. But my ideas have recently changed altogether.

    When I was in my 20s, I was in a car accident in my first and only MG Midget where my car flipped as it was being towed by someone going way too fast and having a rope to tow me that was way too long. And it was a time when having no seat belt was a life saver. My car suddenly fishtailed and went down into a ditch, turning end over end for 2-1/2 times. Luckily I was thrown out on the first roll, and though I had internal and other injuries, I lived. But I was terrified of cars after that and didn’t want to drive or even to be a passenger. But a friend got me to (of all things) start racing sports cars (none of them were mine), and after an initial period where all I thought it was about was winning a trophy. And then one day, I got out there, and I remember how hot it was in New Mexico. But as I began to drive, the car and I suddenly became as one, with a dance that felt joyful and as if there were nothing or no one or any fears, etc. that were in the way. There was nothing else out there. I have never felt anything like that before or until recently. And then suddenly, the flag went out and I got out of the car and walked around dazed with how incredible everything felt and seemed in my mind all day. Toward the end of the day, a lady came up and asked me if I was not going to go and get my trophy. I looked at her as though she were daft. Trophy? I mumbled, stumbling toward the trailer where they had those. Now this was something I thought was something I wanted and needed to get, but never did. And now I had won first in my class. But as I looked at that piece of coated plastic and wood, I understood a truth then. It is not what we have or who we are, but what we experience in this life. From that day forward for all the years I continued to race, when I got into the car, I never thought about winning because it had nothing to do with the experience I felt. And strange as it likely seems, I continued to win first place and second place for all the rest of the years. But that is not important to me. A trophy is something that can sit on a shelf and gather dust, but that memory of that dance and that wonderful feeling will never leave me. I have none of those things any longer. They meant nothing, so I ultimately got rid of all of them. I am slowly realizing what the most important things in life are all about. Thank you so much for sharing this with us. It is really one I will keep in my heart as well as in my memory for a very long time. Hugs to all, Anne

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  5. Thunderstorms and weather can bring deeper conversations and contemplating life. You and your son debated donkeys and carrots. My daughter and I debated roots and wings. Thank you Mother Nature!

    Liked by 1 person

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