Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Lambs and frogs

I turn left at the bottom of the road, along Pilgrims Way West, towards Twitton. It was a quick decision to venture out between rain bursts, and I soon realise I’m not sensibly dressed; the trainers that have lain unused since I gave up my gym membership were never designed for the gloopy mud along the footpath.

Just past the bend in the road I climb up a bank and through a small gap in the hedge. Normally when we take this route, it’s a short cut to the Rising Sun pub, but today I head straight on into the field, walking in the footprints of others. I’m struck by the bright greenness and realise that the long thin leaves of the plants in this field are the same as those on the windowsill at home. There, I have just sixteen small sweetcorn, in orange plastic pots waiting to be planted out at the allotment; here there are hundreds and hundreds stretching out to the distance.

The distant drone of the motorway reminds me of people and work, but there’s nobody around me as I turn along the path and soon the sound of the cars is covered by birdsong. A blue tit rises up from the hawthorn hedge and ahead of me a black-tailed sheep moves slowly away, swinging its wide woollen hips, almost sauntering.

I stop and stand for a while, not thinking, not even really looking until I see three small lambs running towards me; perhaps they’re curious about the still, silent, woman. They have nothing to fear, but as I turn to look at them and try to call them closer, their courage fails and they run, jump and trip away.

I wish I didn’t know so well that moment when confidence turns to doubt, when the urge to be part of something is obliterated by a stronger urge to turn and run.

The last few days have been filled with so much; time spent with friends, exploring new sights, revisiting old haunts. We’ve walked for miles, talked for hours, shared experiences and stories, and built memories to savour. After almost a week together, there’s a shared language; the jokes don’t need explaining and they get funnier with every repetition.

Last night, as we leaned forward to share our food in a small Soho restaurant, it felt like the sort of wedding reception where one table has all the fun while the other guests look on enviously. As the laughter and the chatter got louder and louder, it felt, just for once, that I’d been chosen to sit at that table. But then, as I sat there, watching my friends, I was suddenly worried that they’d realise I was an imposter, that they’d guess I’d managed to gate-crash the party by pretending to be someone else. I didn’t want the evening to end, and I didn’t want to be the one who ended it, but for a short while, the harder I tried to join in and the more they welcomed my every contribution, the more separate I felt.

And then this morning, when I should have joined them again for another day in London, I let the aches and pains of yesterday’s walking become an excuse for staying at home. I let my courage fail me.

I carry on walking, trying not to slip on the mud, past the rough grassy patch where there’s a group of brown rabbits. They don’t seem bothered by my unexpected appearance, they don’t turn and run, they barely glance my way.

Passing the back of Frog Farm, I think of the story Philip always tells our visitors; of the few days each year when the young frogs swarm here. I’ve seen them in their hundreds, pushing forward to cross the road. I know that however quick and brave they are, many of them will end up crushed under cars and feet. Perhaps they know that too. I wonder what it is that keeps them moving on, however high the chances that they won't arrive.

I’m almost home when I come to the kissing gate. On my own today, there’s no reason to stop, as I usually do, to demand a kiss from Philip. So I pass through quickly, but as I do, my telephone rings and he’s there. And when I ask him how his day is going, I hear our friends in the background, shouting hello.

As I walk the last few yards, I begin to think about our plans for tomorrow. I'm sure it will be a very fine day; I just need to work out how to be more of a frog than a lamb.


25 comments:

mybabyjohn/Delores said...

I SO know what you are talking about. Be brave.

Mary-Colleen said...

I love the blend of belonging (to the meadow, to the group, the unassuming rabbits)and of skittishness (the lambs, the moments at the table). I recognize within/without feeling, too.

Anonymous said...

You'll be fine.

Your readers know you are special so wear that thought and enjoy tomorrow.

Anne

raymond alexander kukkee said...

This is a beautiful and gentle post, Sharon. Reflective --and in some ways poignant and even painful, perhaps, but you clearly are a survivor. I really liked this, it is so well done. ":) ~R

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

I think some good and introverted writers feel like conversational outsiders because our oral story-telling doesn't always measure up to our writing standards. Enjoy time with your friends. Just be.

Anne said...

I've had that feeling before. It's not pleasant but I've realized neither is it pleasant to be on my own.

The Idiot Gardener said...

You see, I am the flipside. I get worried when I fit in. I prefer to be an outsider, to be on my own.

A brilliant vignette, but you didn't need telling that!

BarkyMag said...

Beautifully written, you described that feeling of isolation so well. I think we all feel that way now and again. If we didn't we would probably be brash and obnoxious! I wouldn't worry about being an outsider, seeing how the others refer to you it is obvious you are a much loved part of the group.

The Elephant's Child said...

I wish I could say that I don't know what you are talking about. Unfortunately, like so many others, you have beautifully encapsulated my own fears.
I hope tomorrow is a day of not only courage, but success.

Mrs Smith said...

I saw a TED talk about Introversion recently. I've always seen my instinct to retreat as a major flaw. This talk made
me consider that maybe its not a flaw, it's just how I am. It's what I need.. I love company but sometimes time alone is essential. It's ok to have lamb time ... Without the retreat, I can't face the frog time. I love your writing. Your descriptions of the beautiful everyday floor me.

Stella said...

What a deeply beautiful feeling that I get from reading your words. Thank you.

Nessa Roo said...

I have a horrible, heart-breaking story about lambs. I won't tell it here.
I'd rather be a frog any day.

Susan Cooper said...

The feeling of being on the outside and not being apart of something is very lonely and isolating. I am dyslexic and just wrote about that and the challenges and feeling of isolation it can bring. ( http://findingourwaynow.com/2012/05/what-it-means-to-be-dyslexic.html ). Sometimes it's in our head and some times it's not. Take heart in the fact that you are much loved and appreciated. I loved your story. As usual, t was very well written, :-), Susan Cooper

Hillary said...

Nature is such an easy friend in all your writing, Sharon - it seems to offer up its allegorical bounty to you with pleasure.

I in general find frogs to be extremely icky, but I would love to see this swarm of frogs you speak of.

Lastly, how great to have a kissing gate at which you can demand your kiss, and how wonderful that your Philip called you just then. Wonderful.

Azz said...

Wow, I know exactly what you mean, it is nice to hear it written down in a way I could never quite articulate myself.

You just need to remind yourself that all evidence suggests that you are just as much a part of the group as any others =)

Pat said...

I have often felt an odd ball and have learned to live wih it.
One needs to make an effort - well I do - but one also has to be true to oneself and too much conviviality can be wearisome.
We can all be better people but do stay you.

Cle Reveries said...

Very delicate and meaningful post, dear Sharon. With your words you give me a hand to re-join my best friends.
Thank you.
XXXX

Dicky Carter said...

I love the way this painted a picture of isolation - fields, greenery and nature, but also pulled us into a restaurant in Soho. Two extremes, both described beautifully.

Anonymous said...

thanks, very good =)

Young at Heart said...

aaah....confidence .....no one actually knows any more than you do......as I was once told by a very emminent screen writer (originally told to him) nothing you have to say is that important just write it .....which can be applied to life ....I have grown some confidence since turning 50 as I now know none of it really matters but is it too late to put it into practice???

owo said...

Lovely writing, Sharon. And I'm so very glad you decided to be a frog. The last day would've been all wrong without you there. :)

Ribbit.

Happy Frog and I said...

Your posts often resonate with me Sharon but this one in particular certainly did. I often find myself over-thinking situations and convincing myself that I need to take time out and get back into my comfort zone. The fact that you thought things through and ultimately began to focus on the next days plans is a testament to your strength of character.

Danielle said...

Loved reading this post and it's good to know that I'm not the only one who sometimes feels like that. Thank you.

Lady Jennie said...

I finally made it! :-)

I am usually the chatty social butterfly at any gathering (my husband the stoic one, content to let me say it all). But it takes everything out of me to be that way. Mind you, I can't help it. I am that way when around people, but I'm such a loner at heart and I'm only realizing this fact at 42 years of age.

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