We are a busy species. Our calendars are full, our days and weeks scheduled tight. We dash here and there, and fit in brief –often shallow– interactions, thanks to text and social media. What we want is often just a few clicks away. We want what we want NOW. Google notes 53% of visits are abandoned if a mobile site takes longer than three seconds to load.
Busy as bees . . . No, we’re not. We should model ourselves after bees, who moves with steady deliberation, clear purpose, diligence and no rush at all except when threatened.
The honeysuckle outside our front door is in bloom, and so it’s easy to grab a cup of coffee and watch bees going about their business. There is nothing hasty about them. Each flower that is ripe is investigated, explored and nectar sipped. Flowers not quite ready or past their prime are given a look-see before the bee moves on.
Unless I step out into the yard or pasture to disturb them, I can see our dogs and horses also moving with purpose, deliberation and without a rush as they move through their spaces and day. My presence is a catalyst for action, more so for the dogs than the horses. Cows and pigs moving past the back of the dogs’ yard also prompt lightning fast responses–but only when the dogs feel like playing the ever ongoing game of “step away from the fence, cow!” At other times, they simply watch the cows and pigs go by. For their part, the cows and pigs only interact with the dogs when they wish to, otherwise ignoring the barking as they move unhurried through their day.
It is hard to fully undertand how unsettling, rude, agitating or downright frightening our human presence may be for an animal who – prior to our appearance – was having a day with a different rhythm. I always feel bad for bees who buzz by to investigate the delicious looking flowers on a woman’s shirt only to be met by hysteria and threats. I am uncomfortable when I watch someone deliberately shift a dog or horse out of interested, unhurried participation into a wound up freaked out mess in the name of “training” and “drive.” My heartbreaks when I see that an animal is unable to find peace, relaxation and unalloyed enjoyment with their human–because the human is too busy, too demanding, too oblivious, too determined to join the animal on animal time and truly share the moment.
When we move into animal time, we avoid limiting our animals and ourselves. “Hurry up!” interferes with the connection with the animal, undermines the clarity of our intent, and pressures the animal. When we move into animal time, we are agreeing to carve out the time needed to be with the animal in a respectful, unhurried, deliberate and aware way. On the animal’s timetable.
Of course there are emergencies. Of course we all have limits on our time and energy. Of course animals can and devote their entire days to doing what they do: for wild animals, their survival depends on it. What I am saying is that being with an animal on animal time should be our goal whenever possible. It does not need to be for hours on end. It may be as simple as giving the time needed for a brief interaction. Today, I decided to let my scarlet macaw Tyson share my morning yogurt. I had a ton of work to do, as I always do. For my own stupid human purposes just spooning in the yogurt as fuel would have sufficed. But I chose for a bit of animal time. Scooping a spoonful for Tyson, I took a deep breath, shifted to animal time, and soaked in the beauty of this exotic creature as she enjoyed the yogurt with me, one tiny lick at a time. Total time elapsed till we finished our yogurt? In human measure, maybe 3 minutes? In animal time, it took as long as it took, and that was what I gave my bird friend: the unhurried sharing of time together in a simple way.
If you don’t have the “animal time” to work through something with your animal, let it go till you do. Work on a much smaller chunk, or find acompromise that will work at that time. Come back at another point when time is not a pressure but instead a gift that you give freely to the animal — and to yourself. When you hear yourself thinking, “Oh come on!” or sighing with exasperation because your dog just won’t stop sniffing there or you are thinking about what comes next instead of what is in front of you. . . Stop. Be a bee. Go about the business life on the only scale I know of that truly matters: animal time.