Guest blogger Arlette Seib is a writer, photographer and artist inspired by prairieland. She and her husband ranch with sheep on a large swath of land she calls grassland heaven in the Allan Hills near Watrous, Saskatchewan. Vist her at woolstoneprairie.com. Welcome, and thanks Arlette for your contribution!
A life raising sheep on the prairie sometimes seems ordinary. It’s easy to slip into the mindset that a sheepish way of life is not that grand in the scheme of worldly endeavors. Especially when, in the online world we inhabit, people are vying for extraordinary popularity and some have found fame and fortune for unlikely reasons.
I lean against the box of the side-by-side, looking across the rolling hills and wetlands of this prairie landscape, hearing the snuffles and chewing of the guardian dogs eating their morning meal. A black and tan Kelpie dog sits on the seat watching the flock, ever hopeful for a stint of work. The sheep move off—they always do. The ewes are not interested in hanging out near us, particularly when a stock dog is alongside. But I have to wonder, do they have a sense that my human condition doesn’t fit in their natural one?
There is a beautiful simplicity to watching sheep trail off across the prairie landscape. I have taken photos of them many times over, in different spots, in different seasons, and I never tire of watching them as they go. Maybe it’s because I wish to hold onto the unmistakable connection the animals have to each other and to this land. Or perhaps it’s to preserve those fleeting moments when my human condition meets their natural one.
The ewes seem to go precisely where they need to go but it seldom feels like they planned to go there. Not every animal follows the other when they head out for the day. More often small groups of ewes branch out on finger trails. Each group is taking the path of least resistance, flowing and curving with the land, knowing that the most natural way to travel through the day is to find the flow and go with it.
Land and animal serve the needs and functions of the other; they are united in a shared giving and taking to keep the balance. But also within this unity there are less obvious but well recognized truths, like finding the flow and going with it. Perhaps part of the deeper connection humans seek are to be found within a similar shared unity--waiting for our rediscovery. Only by a willingness to become part of it, rather than ignore or conquer it, will we discover within ourselves those long lost deeper connections.
Having finished their meals, the guardian dogs are milling about. The eldest dog noses my hand, bringing my attention to more immediate matters of doling out affection. The female steps up onto the floorboard of the side-by- side, sniffing the Kelpie still watching the sheep. Two guardian dogs have already left, catching up to the ewes as they disappear over the next rise. The youngest dog stands looking about, just as I was a moment ago.
Prairie land, sheep and dogs… After a stretch of busyness and fitting into other people’s agenda’s, soaking up a scene of sheep grazing with the working dogs nearby is just what is needed to begin the process of coming back to some semblance of balance. Of returning to a time and space that revolves around the ebb and flow of nature, rather than the whims of human opinion and ego. There is no substitute for prairie spaces calming the storm after chaos. Every day here is ordinarily grand and ordinarily wise, so much so that I worry that it just might escape me. I murmur a few meaningless words to the eldest dog and begin to collect the feed dishes.
Arlette Sieb, 2019
Judith Wright is a Canadian writer interested in ordinary wisdom, that is, insight gained through everyday experience that is shared with the wider world.