Rams who stare at women

“Ordinary minds are concerned with the extraordinary; extraordinary minds are concerned with the ordinary.” – Pascal

This comforts me. I live in a small village among mountains, not far from a small town in a small country. I run a small press, write for small magazines or publish with small publishing houses.

The small and the ordinary fascinate me. So too does independence. I grew up being called stubborn or independent-minded – an independence of mind that led me through the long campaign to be among the first women ordained in the Church of England and to completing the first PhD in feminist theology in the UK. The same independence made me ill at ease in institutions. From being a teacher I went on to write about alternative education and ways of living with children as autonomous people – and to home educating my four children. From being a priest I went on to explore what being human might mean without a God. I run an independent press and love it for being so. I have recently moved from the state of marriage (31 years) to being single – a new venture into independence – and I live in a place that has a strong sense of identity, of independence, and I admire that spirit (especially when it does not veer to tribalism).

So out on a walk to the post box today I came across an ordinary sheep – a ram to be precise – one of my neighbour’s flock who are too independent minded to take notice of fences. Unusually, the ram was alone, standing by the post box. Normally sheep, even the curly horned males, run off when approached, but this one stared at me and bleated the most curmudgeonly baa I’ve ever heard. He watched me post the letters and followed me home, baa-ing grumpily until a car came up the narrow road, when he began to trot briskly in front of the patient vehicle, not giving an inch. The car managed to edge around him, at which he stood and bleated fiercely, a baa-humbug to make the pre-ghost -epiphany Scrooge seem positively cheerful. Finished with his tirade he stared hard at me again, bleated again and returned to the post box.

Of course the ram in all probability had none of the bad temper or forthrightness that I’ve anthropomorphized him with, but I liked him – or rather, I liked the ram I imagined from the encounter. Not so much the moodiness, but the state of independence he seemed to epitomise – the ability to look someone in the face and speak honestly.


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35 responses to “Rams who stare at women

  1. This sheep that chose not to follow the others like sheep could teach people a lesson. I really enjoyed your post and the vivid imagery.

  2. It’s lovely to see you in the world of blogging and to read another blog about publishing and writing. Looking forward to more posts. I really enjoyed your piece in Artemis too.

  3. Hey, Jan, nice to see your new blog. Look forward to seeing more

  4. Aisling Tempany

    As a home-educated girl, I was once referred to by a teacher as being ‘like a wild animal.’ I think he meant this as reference to my being ‘unruly’ – because I didn’t put my hand up before I spoke, and once walked out of the class because it was stupid.

    This morning I read about ‘Peter the Wild Boy’ this morning, on BBC News http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-14215171 and this quote struck me:

    ‘The wild boy played with a glove of Caroline’s [the Princess of Wales], grew fascinated by a pocket watch that struck the hours and, as was usual with him, attempted some mild pickpocketing. Furthermore, rumour spread that he had, in breach of all civilised decorum, seized the Lord Chamberlain’s staff and put his hat on before the king.’

    I was not a wild animal, I just looked at the world a bit differently, independently. Without 20 years of repeating the same words to people every September to May.

    Although, I did pinch someone’s hat once.

  5. Janice D. Soderling

    Greatly enjoyed. Best of luck with this new endeavor.

    Janice D. Soderling

  6. Miranda

    I like your ram Patricia, and your small world.
    I recently spent a week alone in a house in France. No neighbours, tv, radio, internet, family, guitars, cats or other disturbances. Just me in seven acres of woodland and valley along with an awful lot of lizards, insects and birds. The The lizards darted here and there and basked in the sun, the insects buzzed and droned and the birds bickered, sang and squawked incessently. I found that without all the other distrctions my mind focused in on these creatures, and their daily activities became a source of great interest to me. I’m sure I would have been just as thrilled as you were by your independent-minded billy goat.

  7. Jan, I love this, especially the fact that I can see the encounter so clearly – baa-humbug is perfect. I look forward to more posts.

  8. Many thanks for wonderful comments.
    Love the line about not listening to the same words from September to May, Aisling.

  9. Miranda

    And yes, I know it was a sheep and not a goat!

  10. Good start in the blogging world Jan.

  11. Heather Leach

    Hi Jan,
    Congratulation on the blog. Will try to follow.
    Well done – Great to see pictures of the village – after first staying the in the 70s – then living in Blaenau for a year and a half with my 3 children and partner 73 -75 it still feels very much part of what made me – a short but powerful time of independance for me too. I wrote a number of pieces about that time – if you ever get round to doing a book on the place – Welsh and English maybe, I’d love to contribute. I remember the roaming sheep, tipping the lids off the bins . . . the rain, the diamond factory, Cymorthin up the slate tracks. Thanks for the reminder of that time.

  12. Great start to your new blog, I’ll be an avid follower. Though it does leaves me wondering – WHEN does she ever sleep?

    • Sleep? 🙂
      I did have ten years of insomnia after some work place assaults, but it miraculously vanished last summer – so I do sleep, but I probably don’t need too much – the night is too creative 🙂

  13. Frances-anne

    Great news, Jan. It will be realy interesting to hear about the inside world of small publishing….increasingly important, I feel, in this day and age.

  14. Welcome to blogging!
    I find it rather too addictive and it distracts me from writing other stuff, but conversely it also keeps me at it, if that makes sense?!

    Love your ram description. Unfortunately I once saw a ram knock a man over by butting him behind the knees and it has rather put me off them!

  15. This one did have that look in his eye, but kept himself to gruff comments. I know exactly what you mean about writing that keeps you writing and yet distracts – but it’s all practise, hopefully.

  16. Super post and great to see you blogging, Jan. I sooo related to this, and about that ram. I’m one for independent living…

    warm wishes


  17. My lane is often inhabited by such rams. Good luck with the blog. You have prompted me to pay some attention to my own.

  18. A small and brilliant piece of writing about small and brilliant pieces. More, please.

  19. Good luck with the new blog. I’ve always liked cinnamon 🙂

  20. What a great find! Bit of a godsend too – much here that I identify with, which is great, seldom is it that I relate to others in quite such a direct and un-intellectualised way. Refreshing, and kind of vital. Many thanks, Claire-Louise. (Living alone in a very small cottage on the west coast of Ireland.)

  21. Jan,
    Thank you for sharing your delightful perspective on your small, independent world. As a feminist, unable to square the way a fundamentalist church in which I was raised treated women, I left that church and after a 20-year hiatus, became a Unitarian Universalist. Congratulations on your stand — becoming a priest, even though it sounds as if it took a healthy toll. I grew up on a farm in Iowa, U.S., and love animals. Retired from 30 years in journalism, I’m a poet celebrating women, goddesses, and nature. I would love to meet you and have a good chat, but since that’s unlikely, I look forward to enjoying your words via your blog.
    Best wishes,
    Nan Lundeen

    • Interesting points of intersection, Nan – I had a series of work placer assaults that forced the move, but it was the reaction of the hierarchy to my resulting injuries that forced the perspective shift – something I’m now enormously grateful for, though the method could have been better 🙂

  22. I believe the actual quote is “Small minds are concerned with the extraordinary, great minds with the ordinary,” but it is comforting to me as well, for the older I get the more the ordinary fascinates me. Thank you for this.

  23. Most insightful. Thank you.

    I kind of put two and two together from my research before I first communicated with you, Jan. How refreshing your honesty is. I look forward to future blogs on more of your working day especially the editing side of your small press business.

  24. Hi Jan, look forward to following your blog, I also educated our youngest son from home. Just finished reading ‘hearing the grass grow’ set in the Llyn peninsular during the war. A lovely book about a lovely area.

  25. Hi Jan, now isn’t ‘going to the post’ one of life’s pleasures? I enjoyed the piece about the ram – having just walked Hadrian’s Wall I can report that there are a few independent ovines in the Border country as well. It’s been interesting too to hear a little more about you as an individual, especially as you’re someone who has inevitably featured in my life over the last couple of years’ progress (I hope) through the tortuous process towards being published. Good luck and I look forward to your next piece

  26. maria grech ganado

    I write about goats precisely because being a sheep gives me the creeps, and I think the time is ripe to break the silence of the lambs 🙂

  27. What a treat that you are blogging. I will read every post avidly. Independence, hurrah! Autonomy, hurrah, hurrah! But the anarchy ten minutes from here last night, boo and boo hoo, that is just sheep being silly.

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