For a do to
Last May I fell completely and utterly (I would say udderly but these are steers) in love with four Jersey Boys. And I don’t mean Frankie Valli and friends or the guys from Jersey Shore. The boys I’m talking about are four legged doe-eyed beauties like the ones above.
This love affair started the day Bob and I drove to Wisconsin to pick them up. We were on Day 11 of the 21 Day Purification program.
I remember Day 11 because it was the first day we could add meat back into our diet. For ten days we had eaten only fruits and vegetables. Our weight loss had been steady, and in Bob’s case remarkable, so we weren’t sure how adding meat would affect our losing streak.
When we drove into town we headed to the scales to weigh the cattle. Although this was an entirely different scale than I was using, I had to report to my group that adding meat resulted in a 2800 pound weight gain. (This was the beginning of my breakup with the scales.)
What I didn’t know was how much these magnificent creatures would cause me to question my decision to eat meat. I quickly became concerned with the conditions of cattle everywhere and how they (and other animals) are treated.
Granted, I grew up on a farm so I knew in advance how this story would end. The men in my life are hunters and insist on reminding me of the cycle of life. But I am blown away by the cycle of love and the capacity critters have to offer us comfort in exchange for a little kindness.
My Jersey Boys were full of joy and curiosity from the moment we got them home. They took to the pasture like it was their playground and we were their playmates. Because they were bottle fed, they followed us around like puppies and ate apples out of our hands.
When I started scheming about ways to keep the boys with us for decades to come, Bob started limiting my visits. He said my plan to keep them in the basement over the winter was not going to work, not even if we kept just one.
He did consent to keeping them with us longer than any other steers. However, today he loaded them in the trailer and took them for their final ride.
Bob pretends it doesn’t bother him, but what he doesn’t know is I know he bought two bags of apples earlier in the week just for them. When I went to say goodbye to them, they nuzzled up next me and I burst into tears. They had no need to know why I was distraught. They wanted only to comfort and nudged closer.
For a long time I stood there crying like a 4-H kid who had just said good-bye to her champion steer. People say they are just animals, but I know they become our confidantes when we spend time caring for them.
Despite my intellectual understanding of impermanence and the way nature works, I mourn the loss of love in any form. These bovine bodhisattvas taught me a great deal about love in a short time.
I could put my heart on lock down and become defensive and fearful. Or I could ask, “How now, brown cows? How do we live and love knowing loss is inevitable?”
Like my cow-ncil of elders, I suspect my Jersey boys would reply, “By never missing an opportunity to love… however and whenever it shows up.”