Monday, July 23, 2012
Stop And Look Around Once In A While
I took the dog out for a little romp in the yard—he likes to chase a particular squeaky toy and roll around in the grass from time to time. We exited the house through the garage door and rounded the corner toward the front yard when I spotted a small black cat darting east along the mulch line. I followed the little guy’s trail down the sidewalk and brick steps, assuming Baxter would be right behind me or even about to dash ahead to catch the intruder animal. He does like to chase cats, that dog of mine. But when I turned to locate the dog, I saw him well behind me, nose to the ground, tracking the cat that he never saw but could clearly smell.
I called Baxter to follow me, but he was intent on locating the source of the unusual scent and didn’t appear to hear me, or wasn’t interested in my call, more likely. Emily spotted the cat from a basement window and went out the east door to get a closer look, which only made the cat make a quick 180 and head back west, right past me and right past the dog.
Surely Baxter would see it this time, running just two feet from him and darting behind the holly bushes, but my dog never did see the cat. While the thing was back tracking to escape our property, Baxter was running in circles in a three or four foot radius where the cat had previously been, sniffing him out, 100 percent focused on the task but never stopping to look around him, to take a look at his surroundings.
The cat got away from us all, and Baxter was left with nothing to chase but a phantom smell. He ran down the steps to the side yard and then ran back up to the driveway, excited about a potential chase, unaware he had completely missed the opportunity.
You know, one sort of person could have watched this scene play out and think nothing of it. Simple animal drama. But another sort might like a metaphor, so here goes.
We are taught to keep our noses to the grindstone and our ears to the ground—or in a dog’s case, his nose to the ground and his ears…well, the matchup ends there. But it’s quite possible to be too focused, to be so determined in our hard work and diligence that we miss the one chance or miss the goal or miss the point. It’s quite possible to be so one-tracked in our intentions that we miss the perfect opportunity because it’s all going on behind us, and we can't slow down long enough to look around. Nose to the grindstone, nose to the ground, nose in the air, nose out of joint because we can’t find what we’re looking for in the direction we're headed.
Metaphor aside, I believe we spend a lot of our time with blinders on, fully convinced we're doing the right thing, when what we need to do is ditch the blinders, stop working so hard as if nothing but constant activity will get us to the goal—help us find the cat—and get our noses off the grindstone, off the ground, out of the air long enough to look around.
Let your thoughts wander. Let your hands go idle. Be quiet and still and observant. Because sometimes what you’re looking for might be in another direction, like behind your busy nose.
at 9:48 AM