This past spring and summer, I was fortunate to be able to do quite a bit of hiking. As an exercise, it's my absolute favorite. It's like getting to dance through a movie; each step is carefully choreographed and the views, smells, sounds, and experiences are new and filling.
Many times this past warm hiking season, like in years past, I found myself with an irritant in the form of a fat black fly who was determined to buzz my head and threaten to bite me. In other times, I would have swatted like crazy at that guy, hoping to scare him off so I could get back to being blissful. "How dare he interrupt my forest bath and my communing with Mother Earth?" I'd think. "How dare he claim any stake in my experience?"
This year, though, I chose a different tactic. Not only didn't I swat, I didn't even try to ignore him. I just listened to the buzz and, when no human was listening, talked. I said things like, "I know. You don't really care for me being here. I'm just gonna keep moving on and I'll be out of your hair soon enough. Thanks for hanging out with me."
I didn't get bitten even once by those guys this year. Instead, each one flew around my head, to the right or left side of my shoulder or behind me. They buzzed like crazy. Then, after about twenty steps, each one reversed course and left me alone.
Every time it was quiet again, I wondered, "What was that about?"
Was he my shepherd fly?
Toward the end of the warm season, I reflected on the role my shepherd fly had. He picked up on my presence, tried to warn me away, expressed his frustration and irritation, and eventually let me go. He joined me for part of my hike, and then he wasn't there anymore. I didn't fight him; he didn't bite me.
What a great metaphor. It's easy and clear. The hikes represented all of life, right? Some are short; some are long. Some are easy; some are quite difficult. Some encourage connection; many have difficulty.
What I learned from my shepherd fly is to be patient. And to be respectful. And to trust that the buzzing will stop sooner if I don't make it into a bigger deal than it is. I learned that the buzzing will bother me less if I understand that it comes from a place of protection and fear.
The shepherd fly is both a reminder and a foil. He can be left alone and left behind. I also can tell you that I'm looking forward to applying the lessons learned from my experience of him in other areas of my life.
How about you? Do you have a shepherd fly (either real of metaphorical)?