I was brought up in a small Devon village, in the midst of an active farming community.
As child I was part of a gang of bony kneed, freckle faced explorers who loved nothing more than to roam around the countryside making dens and searching for escaped convicts (that’s a story for another time!)
I particularly loved hanging about the farms, helping the farmers with their chores whilst trying desperately to avoid being bitten by the farm dogs or pecked by ferocious gaggles of geese. Farmer Brown (honest, that really was his name!) was one of the good guys, he seemed quite happy to have this grubby little tyke helping out and would patiently answer the barrage of questions that I would fire at him.
A job that delighted but infuriated me was letting the hens out of their henhouses in the mornings. They would flap around, squawking loudly and pecking at each other and anything else that got in their way – they always seemed so excited to be free of their nocturnal prison and acted as if the whole world was new to them.
I would tear about with them; trying to stop the fights, steering them towards their feed and generally aligning myself with their frenetic energy. Farmer Brown would stand quietly watching, with an amused smile of his face, saying nothing.
I remember one particular long hot summer when I spent most days ‘helping’ on the farm and, each day would be given the job of letting the hens out. After one particularly crazy morning where I had been pecked too many times and felt as if these hens were never going to learn how to behave I welly-stomped over to Farmer Brown and fired my frustration at him in a form of endless questions:
“Why won’t they learn? They keep hurting each other and they’re stupid. Why won’t they just be nice to each other and just eat their feed and take turns!”
I was hot, bothered and near to tears and waited for some wise words from Farmer Brown.
His reply was short and sweet and made no sense to me at all.
“Jus’ leave ‘em be maid, they’ll settle down” he said, before wandering off to see to the calves.
Even though his words made no sense to me, I thought hard about what he had said and decided to try exactly that the very next morning.
So, there I was, the next day and against my seven year old better judgment, opening the hen houses, stepping back and leaving ‘em to it.
Yes, there was some squawking and flapping for a while but I resisted the urge to sort them out and just stood back and left ‘em to it. As if by magic, and just as Farmer Brown had suggested, every one of them, within a few minutes had settled down.
Now they were all feeding, pecking for worms and roosting quite happily. Their ‘pecking’ order had been established without any interference from me and they really were settled down.
The peace that settled over that beautiful and magical field in Devon can’t be described adequately here but suffice to say that Divine Wisdom was at play in that little piece of Paradise.
I was reminded of this memory recently when thinking about the way our thoughts play out.
For me, there is often an early morning worry thought battle going on, as if a pecking order needs to be established in my head before I can get on with my day!
Which thought stream should I choose to take priority – my work, my finances, my health? – all seem to get more and more strident as I try to sort them out.
I now know that trying to sort them out is not going to help in any way at all, unless I want to be hot, bothered and near to tears, and I find myself remembering Farmer Brown’s words:
“Just leave ‘em be maid. They’ll settle down”
And guess what, they absolutely do.
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