OVER the last long weekend, I took my family to visit my friend Chris at his farm in Port Dickson.
My wife and I had decided to take a family holiday before my eldest daughter started her medical studies at the varsity next month.
The trip was also for my wife and I to catch up with Chris, whom we had not met since he retired.
When we arrived at the farm, Chris had just returned from shopping for supplies in town. As we helped him to unload and carry the bags into the farm house, I saw how clearly excited my daughters were by the sight of the motley crew of farm animals -- some in enclosures and some roaming freely and peaceably.
Their excitement brought back cherished memories of the fishing trips and long drives into the countryside that I took them on when they were in primary school -- trips that grew less frequent as they entered secondary school that meant important examinations to study for and more school activities.
That afternoon, it dawned on this father how fast time had flown.
At the farm, my daughters fed the ostriches and goats. They took pictures with the turkeys, guinea fowls, Silkies and rabbits. They even managed to coax the wild baby macaque, which the farm hands had named Gigi, into posing for a photo.
My wife was impressed by how tame and friendly the farm animals were. I said that could only be the result of the care and kindness shown to them by the farm hands. Animals (unlike some people, sadly) know when they are loved and they will reciprocate that love with obedience and loyalty.
A couple of donkeys grazing at the far end of the farm came trotting up at Chris's call. So did the ostriches and a month-old kid in the goat pen. Even Gigi was feeding off Chris's palm like a small child as he spoke to it.
I was amazed how the animals seemed to understand him. It was like a scene out of Dr Doolittle.
My wife asked me how much it cost to run a farm. It must be quite a sum, I said. But to turn a piece of wilderness into a genuine haven for animals and a sanctuary for nature lovers like Chris had so admirably achieved must have cost much, much more.
As we were driving back to the hotel that evening, my wife commented that Chris did not look a day older than when we last saw him.
I said he must have found and drank of the fountain of youth at the farm. Plenty of fresh air and sunshine and none of stress would have formed part of the recipe of that sweet beverage.
But the most potent ingredient in that elixir must be his passion for his work. For if he did not love what he did, he would not be able to toil daily at the farm, where some of the duties can be back-breaking, much less grow seemingly younger while working harder than ever.
I have read that people who live their lives with passion are always full of energy and enthusiasm. They are also a joy to be with.
So is it any wonder that someone like Chris does not seem to age? Even Time, who waits for no man, will stand still to watch this particular man living his life with such happiness and contentment!
On the opposite end, those who do not love life will have much to complain about. Instead of filling their waking hours with dreams and hope, they invite fear, jealousy, suspicion and hate into their hearts, where they fester and corrode the soul.
They are throwing away the precious little time we have to live, love and be loved. And that is a tragedy.
Dear readers, I am taking a break from writing this column to pursue my long-neglected passion for art. If you have been following this column for the last four years, thank you for your support. My parting words to you are: Take care. And don't let modern life make you forget to how to live.