Hold Your Head High

“Hold your head high” has a certain connotation. Do things you are proud of, in effect, the opposite of having to hang your head in shame. When you see someone being taken away by the police, they rarely hold their head high. We know when we’re ‘guilty’ - and hold our head accordingly.

There’s a more practical meaning to holding your head high, I’ve found. It’s trivial but, mehtinks, applies to other situations that can arise in our life - or not.


We have an 8-acre farm property in Delaware County NY. About two acres are wood-lot. We’ve maintained a trail around the perimeter of the remaining six acres. From front door, in a large loop out by the Zen garden, along Lilac Row and out by the two apple trees (which never seem to grow) an through the AMC clearing. Through the ‘service’ area where we compost, start comfrey roots, grow potatoes and hosta, by the horse manure pile, and up the Friendship Trail, named for our friends, Susanna and Mary, whose properties share a rock wall between us. By the three 55-gal drums which store spring water from the fresh source ½  mile up the mountainside.

Through the semi-enclosed paddock where the comfrey grows in raised beds and long rows, by the cherry tomato, calendula and arnica raised beds - and finally alongside the top of the open pastures, heavily growing with milkweed (candy for Monarch butterflies but we don’t see many fluttering about - but they do seem to like zinnias in front of the house.). Then down the far side of the pasture, steeply dipping back to the house.

The loop is about 3/4 mile walking, 1.5 miles doing it twice - so coming back to holding your head high thought...on these frequent walks (yes, Virginia, there is a great view at the top.), I’m encircling about 2-3 acres of open pasture. Deer and turkey, though mostly deer, graze in these open pastures. Deer are beautiful, graceful creatures, especially when they bound away.

Their weakness is that they don’t see well. But here I am, walking along in the sun, along the trail that, if I looked up, could see way across for wildlife on the open field. But I’m walking along, head down, my eyes on the ground watching that I don’t stumble. Hellloooo! I’ve walked this trail hundreds of time over the past 20 years; I mow it regularly. What am I going to trip on?

And while I’m looking down, my motion warns the deer and all I see are the deer leaping away, a fast gesture of departure. If I had been walking with my head held high, I could have seen the bigger picture, the horizon - and the deer before I literally scared them away.


In converse and a small aside about deer - deer don’t see well. If you don’t move, they remain unconcerned. Here’s a way that ‘still’ works to get close to a deer grazing in the field. If deer suspect you are near, they will become alert, yes, their head held high, looking around.

If you remain still when they are searching for actual motion, they will not bolt. In a few seconds, they will lower their head and resume grazing. At that specific moment, you can walk towards them. When the deer detects something is awry, he will raise his head again, alert. At that moment, stop until he resumes grazing. Continue this dance until you eventually spook the deer or get as close as you can. I’ve gotten with about 10 yards once with a smaller deer.


My takeaway is that although we have to watch out for stumbles along the paths we follow, be mindful of the bigger picture - and keep your head high. A minor corollary is that as you keep your head high, you won’t need to look over your shoulder, should anyone be ‘looking’ for you. When you look over your shoulder, you’re more likely to actually stumble, to trip. “If something’s not right, it’s wrong.” (Courtesy Bob Dylan, You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go). Do something ‘wrong’, you’re likely to stumble.

Me? I’ll continue walking my ¾ mile loop with an eye out for the black bear I’ve never seen. I’m holding my head high, knowing that one day, as I walk up along the Friendship Trail and gaze across the large, open pasture to the north, I’ll see the unmistakable shape of a dark black bear, shuffling along, not yet realizing that I’m watching, my head held high.

Seth HershComment