Focus of Attention


I live in a village which functions for part of the year as a collection point for sheep. More than ten thousand sheep arrive at the place in great lorries. The lorries have several storeys so there can be quite a lot of sheep in them. The columns of lorries always arrive in the autumn after the sheep have been up in the mountains to graze. After arriving they are divided up into smaller flocks which go round the countryside, driven by a shepherd and 4-5 dogs, which are unbelievably good at defending their flock against attack from strange dogs, foxes and thieves. The dogs keep the flocks together, too. 

Sheep are exposed to many dangers, animals of prey are not limited to one place. They are everywhere, disguised or not so disguised. Wolves in sheep’s clothing. You can recognise them by their instincts. by their ruthlessness. Here and now. By their mode of attack. 

My own dog once ran off to chase sheep. It came home covered in blood to be met with a face expressing surprise and worry. I thought I knew the dog. But nature has its own cycle. Even though a dog can be calm and disciplined, a role model for other dogs, it has its aspects, just as other species have theirs. Its behaviour can seem unpredictable and intangible. My eyes seek out this focus when the schism between nature and culture has to stand its test.