Growing Where You Are Planted
I love going to the fair.
It is noisy, it is dirty, and it is completely alive.
There are things to do, people to see, and, as I recently learned, cowboy monkeys who ride herding dogs performing in the rodeo.
You don’t always know what you need
If you had asked me what I needed before I made it to the fair that fateful night, I might have told you that I needed a long quiet walk. Or a nap. Or a long soak in the tub with a good book.
I would not have known to tell you that I needed to see a border-collie riding capuchin monkey who likes to herd sheep and eat Oreos, but it turns out that is exactly what I needed.
Sometimes this feels like a chronic condition of modern life — at least my modern life. There are so many things to do, and before I can even leave my house to do any of them, I have to make sure the dog has been walked, the cat’s litter box has been cleaned, and that there is food and water for both.
And that’s just the animals.
Then, there is the matter of my bag.
I like to take something to do with me so that if I get stuck somewhere for an hour or five, I have enough to keep me busy.
Life is too short to not have a back-up plan in your bag.
And packing a back-up plan requires consideration of its own.
If the bag needs to be inspected (ball games, concerts, airport) is everything in that bag going to make it through the screening? You don’t want to have to give up your best embroidery scissors in line at the ball park.
So I carefully chose the things for my state fair adventure, and with my animals attended to and my bag packed, I was ready to go.
The line at the park and ride
Where, I asked my husband, would we park?
I had run my toe into a corner a couple of weeks earlier and was still nursing a sometimes sore toe, so the prospect of walking an unspecified distance over who-knows-what-kind-of terrain was something I could not prepare for.
We looked over the options and settled on making use of one of the “park and ride” lots that had been set up around Albuquerque.
Apparently we were not the only ones. When we arrived at the “park and ride” we had chosen, there was a long line of people ahead of us. We took our place in line and waited. As busy and full as the “park and ride” was, we had no reason to think that things would ease up the closer we got to the fairgrounds.
Reaching the midway
Eventually, we boarded a bus, and when we finally reached the New Mexico State Fairgrounds, the sun had nearly set and the rodeo had already begun.
After turning left at the Pikachu:
We made our way past the rides and the exhibition halls, turning this way and then that, trying to navigate a new-to-us venue in the dark, with lots of people and flashing lights. It was an odd combination of daunting and exhilarating, and eventually, just past the MVD Express booth, we came to Tingley Coliseum where the rodeo/concert was set to take place.
My first rodeo
I had never been to a rodeo, and I didn’t know what to expect.
There was the more usual fare of calf roping and barrel racing and bull riding, but the demonstration that really caught my attention was Whiplash the cowboy monkey.
Born in 1987 in Miami, Florida, Whiplash didn’t start his life as a cowboy, but it was a life that came to him through a series of events that brought him to Stephenville, Texas, and he now spends a good portion of the year touring the rodeo circuit.
Watching Whiplash, I was captivated.
Here was a small creature in what was, at one time, a strange and foreign situation, and he had created a life for himself.
Obviously not the kind of life most capuchin monkeys experience, but a life nonetheless. There was no ruminating about lives that might have been or careers he might have had.
He was a cowboy monkey.
There was a dog to ride, sheep to herd, applause to be soaked up, and post-performance Oreos to be eaten.
Where you are planted
Sometimes I find myself thinking: If only I had done x, y, or z at some point in the past — a point I can never get back to — my life sure would be different.
Usually, the imaginary present that I envision is somehow better than the one that I have, but there are several problems with this kind of thinking.
First, if I could travel back in time and make a different decision, the series of events that would unspool afterward would also be different, so I have no way of knowing if my imaginary present would be an improvement on my current and real present.
Second, that kind of thinking requires a lot of looking back, and looking back means that I’m not looking forward and using the lessons I have learned in the past to improve my future.
Third, I don’t get to experience the full pleasure of the joys in front of me.
A fresh, hot cup of coffee is only a fresh, hot cup of coffee for so long. That crisp fall day I’m ignoring won’t happen in January.
Like Whiplash, I need to figure out what my goal is (in his case, some Oreos after a performance), and move forward toward that goal.
What animals can teach us
There is a lot to be learned from non-human animals. Everyday science teaches us more about the rich interior lives they live, the connections they form, and the depth of their emotions.
While he was performing, I was completely captivated by Whiplash and the way he lives his life fully and completely.
So I suppose the real question isn’t “What can animals teach us?” the real question is “What can we learn from animals?” And that requires us to have more open minds and to learn to see the world through their eyes.
I, for one, hope I am up to the task.