Beware the little foxes.
People have all sorts of quick phrases to remind them of the larger truths.
Beware the little foxes is one that I use.
It's from Song of Solomon (2:15). "Catch us the foxes, the little foxes, that ruin the vineyards - for our vineyards are in blossom."
I learned it in the context of parliamentary work: watch out for the little things, the things you don't think will be a problem, because they turn into the largest headaches. It's true. It's always the motions that we think are simple that end up causing the most problems.
I was reminded of the phrase this week when I went to work on a craft project. It's a simple beaded name tag. It's not big, there's not a lot of detail, it's a beading technique I've done before.
But the little foxes were out. Over three evenings and probably seven hours I must have restarted this project 10 times. The thread was too long. I needed to wax the thread. The thread was getting knots in it. I made adjustments to each of those issues as I started over yet again.
The problem, which almost drove me to quit, was reading the beading chart. On the first try I just couldn't seem to count the chart correctly, so the beading work wasn't wide enough. So I started at a different place on the chart. Three rows into the work I put in white beads where I should have put in blue beads. Try again. Then the first two rows of beads which form the foundation were getting twisted. Try again.
Finally, I got it. It was working. I could see my name start to develop.
Then I found the little foxes' den. It was my devotion to the pattern.
I was working slowly, going between the printed pattern and the beaded work in my hands, counting how many white beads were needed, sewing them in, checking the pattern again for how many blue beads I needed and putting them in. Back and forth I went between the work and the pattern. As I approached the end of the first part of the pattern which contains my first and maiden names, I finally realized I didn't need to look at the pattern. I could tell just by looking which bead I needed next.
The little foxes had been defeated. I could feel my whole body relax. It suddenly became a much more pleasurable activity. I was finally enjoying what I was creating.
The pattern is still important, I still needed it to guide me in shaping the next set of letters. And I will need it the pattern to shape the edges of the name tag. But the focus is on the work, not the pattern.
And now I find myself looking for the little foxes in other things.
The forms and applications involved with planning a Peace Week concert in September. The grant application is important, but it's irrelevant if the rest of the event isn't the focus of efforts.
The phone calls, emails and meetings that are keeping my husband busy at work. They're important, but if his team isn't working to fix the problems in front of them, there's nothing to report at the meetings.
Email. Facebook. Twitter. Some of these are little foxes, scheming to steal away time instead of allowing me to focus on the few emails, posts and tweets that can actually provide information and support.
Little foxes are cute. They are a joy to watch as they grow up and explore the world. But beware the little foxes. They can steal your time and energy and focus.
- Ann Warner