The Highland Cattle, a breed originally from Scotland, are at home in their element here in Maine. Their history goes as far back as the 6th century A.D., and this has meaning for me because it tells me that they are “tried and true.” The cold winters here do not bother these shaggy creatures, and their superior ability at foraging in difficult and poor terrain serves them well. Many other cattle are much fussier and would never thrive in my climate.
It’s all about adaptation. The first step to adapting to any situation is accepting it, and this means full acceptance. There is no blaming and no shaming. There is just the acceptance of “this is where we are now.” I believe this is the hardest thing for most people to do in any difficult situation. Too often we tell ourselves that we “just can’t believe” it. We’re bowled over. We’re at an impasse. We say to ourselves, “This is impossible.” We live in denial. We lie to ourselves, and then we lie to others.
|Poetry in motion.|
And if we go on not accepting our situations, then we can do nothing about them. Acknowledging them is the first step. Complete acceptance of our circumstances without blame or anger leaves us open to the next step, and that is assessing the situation. We say to ourselves, “Okay, what are my priorities? What absolutely must be done first for survival?” Now that we are calm and done with the blame and shame, it’s easier to know exactly what we must do to take care of absolute needs. And when we do that, it becomes much easier to separate the essentials from the frivolities.
By and by, we automatically know and do exactly what must be done to continue our survival. Next, we begin to ask ourselves, “What are my strong points and what are my weak points? What am I good at? Where am I lacking?” This is another honest assessment, like the step of acceptance above. There is no room for ego here and no room for victimhood. However, having successfully shouldered our burden by identifying our priorities and taking care of them as we did above, we are much less likely to be victims than we might have been in the past.
Now we begin to focus on comfort and not just survival, and it is a wonderful thing to be comfortable. Thoughts of comfort weren’t something we could afford when we were in crisis mode, but now we are out of the crisis, or at the very least, we have grown shoulders large enough to handle it well. Comfort brings joy, and joy leads to art. Even primitive man fashioned absolute necessities such as drinking vessels or cutting tools into works of art. Now beauty is a part of our life, even if it is only for function and necessary things. Drinking water from a rounded leaf is practical. Drinking water from a carved animal horn is divine.
Each step occurs in accordance with our ability to adapt to our situation. My mother always said, “There’s no such thing as a free lunch.” The older I get, the more meaning that phrase has. First, it only meant that I had to pay my own way. Then it meant that no one would give me something without expecting something in return. Then it meant that we’re better off forging our own path than relying on someone else. Then it meant that we get out of life what we put into it. It keeps changing.
But the Highland Cattle, the majestic beasts of the field, patiently adapt to their surroundings. Their thick and shaggy coat insulates them from the barbarity of the tundra. Instead of enormous layers of fat, the Highland Cattle have adapted their shaggy hair instead (which makes their meat very sought after). They dig through the snow with their horns to find food, which other cattle would turn their noses up to, but they are survivors and they know how to find what they need so that they can have what they want.
Be like the Highland Cattle. It won’t solve all of your problems, but it will make them much more manageable. Be graceful and accepting. It doesn’t mean you don’t deserve more or can’t strive for better things, but it does mean that you know how to bide your time. Be industrious and hardworking, ensuring needs are met, but be certain that it is your needs that are met and not those of a faceless corporation. Be comfortable and artistic. Beauty is not only in the eye of the beholder, but in the hand of simplicity and sublime function.