Sunday, 8 November 2015

Good morning, alpaca

The daily commute can, at times, be a joyless duty. Following the same road, day in, day out, until - like Willy Loman - you get so ground down by the routine that you can almost forget which day it is. Which is why, one morning on my usual commute, I was elated to see that an otherwise unremarkable field beside my road was suddenly occupied by a couple of dozen alpacas. This, as you may readily be able to imagine, brightened my morning immeasurably.

They weren't doing anything remarkable, you understand. They were not, for example, performing miraculous feats of acrobatics, singly or in unison, nor were they lined up along the fence, harmonising their ululations to melodic effect. They were just standing there, occasionally nibbling grass, or peering around, bemusedly. The reason I was so pleased, was that they seemed so completely satisfied with their little existences, and almost pleased just to be alpacas, that it felt churlish not to share in their quietly joyful world-view.

Months - years - went by. Sometimes they were there, and I feel no shame in admitting to calling out "Morning, alpacas!" as I drove by. Sometimes, they were not there, in which case my felt a sense of regret at having missed them. And then, a few weeks ago, they returned to the field, after a prolonged absence, and I realised that it would be remiss of me not to introduce myself.

After one morning's false start, when they were away from the field by the road, I saw them. Giddly with expectation, I turned my car around and pulled into a little dirt track beside them. Before I had got out of the car, most of them had wandered over to inspect me and, by the time I presented myself before them at the fence, most of them were there ready to greet me. They were as delightful as I had hoped, and as diverse a bunch of characters as one could imagine.

One white alpaca appeared cautious and skeptical, whereas another brown animal appeared to have decided that, in me, it had found a long-lost friend. I spent perhaps five or ten minutes watching them as they watched me. Some of the more skittish held their long ears back, until they realised that I was no threat, and then held their ears aloft, and pranced about as if to reassure me that they knew I was all right, really. Others craned their necks over the fence to say hello, and one or two let me stroke their delightful furry faces.

I left them, with a wave of gratitude, and continued on my way. I felt pleased and deeply satisfied to have met them, and relieved that our encounter had been of such a cordial nature. I like to imagine that they might have been pleased that, after all this time, I had taken a moment to say hello.

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