New Gates

There needs to be a basic and standard maxim, “That which seems the simplest usually conceals the most complex.”

Take, for example, the “simple” gate.

That “simple” gate closed can become the nemesis for a hunter trying to get to a favorite hunting spot and encountering the barrier of a bruise-causing, shoulder-aching, barbed-wire-tearing tight gate that defies opening and may even demand a fence crawl.

And yet, there are cattle that seem to see that same closed gate as a challenge to lean on, rub against, and push through to a forbidden beyond.

However, open that “simple” gate, approach with a bunch of cattle and the intent to move them through the opening, and another possibility arises.

This may appear at first to be the easiest of tasks. What could possibly happen with an experienced rider, a well-trained horse, a bright sunny day signaling no weather surprises and a pre-opened gate that any creature with a “half a brain” and “a lick of sense” could see opens the way to new, untasted and untested, deep grass.

But there always seems to be a glitch.

Like that old lead cow who approaches the new opening with caution, sniffing first the ground and then the wood posts. After what seems an eternity, she may stretch her neck to take a few mouthfuls of grass and then she moves…only to stand sideways in the gate, calmly chewing and holding the group behind her from moving through the opening.

If patience rules, eventually, she will step forward and move, at her pace, through the gate, leading the rest of the group with her.

A few years ago, I was tasked with writing my autobiography in six words. And how exactly does a person boil down to its essence the full story of a life’s work?

Two weeks and a ream of paper later, I wrote about my efforts to help others see the seemingly simple opportunities lying hidden in plain view:

Old cows, New gate, Move dammit!

It has included the artist learning about the business of art. A community learning to value and celebrate its roots. A foreign student finding a pathway through the American educational maze. The nontraditional student stepping into the world of contestable concepts that rules the arts and humanities. Even the customer buying a pair of fine cowboy boots…or a premium cut of beef.

In each circumstance, individuals have recognized the need to prepare for a changing reality. To bootstrap their idea by working at their side gig in spare time. To find new ways to give voice to their spirit in meaningful work. To provide food and shelter for self and family by keeping the day job.

Add to that the pressures and uncertainties of six months and counting of a deadly pandemic and economic uncertainty. The pressure builds, and so do the fears with forward movement at times frozen by the doubts.

“Will I succeed?” 

“What am I thinking?”

“How can I hope to prevail in times like this?”  The questions and doubts about self mount, gaining speed and feeding on each other.

Seeing person after person hesitate in the face of the new, I thought about that cow in the gate. In some ways their hesitation resembles the cow’s:

  • Not knowing the qualities of the new territory ahead, they hesitate to move through the gates to a new field.
  • No matter how lush the field is beyond the gate, moving through the opening causes the heart to beat faster, the adrenaline to pump, and the cautionary flags to wave wildly.
  • Pushing from the outside too quickly sounds the alarms. The individual moves best through the gate at their chosen speed.

And one last point. For both cow and human…time expands and contracts. But most of all, moments pass.

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