I want to talk about the cows, but not just about the cows, but about how they reached out to save me, the cows that need saving, the cows that live impossibly crammed in pastures of dirt off Hwy 5 between Los Angeles and San Francisco awaiting their slaughter.

Every time I drive past the cows that live so innocently, grazing, walking around amongst one another, it breaks my heart. They have no idea. One time I’m driving past, and a bunch of fresh young calves have joined the herd. As I look at them I think ‘pack’ instead of ‘herd’ because to me somehow ‘pack’ implies choice, an intentional coming together. I’m funny that way.

So the young calves have joined, and they’re romping around, running on super skinny legs, buoyant and playful. And they make me laugh out loud. I stop to go near them, stop in a place I never stop, and I walk towards the fence that imprisons them, look around, wonder how to liberate them. I glance down to my left and see a large stone that would require both my hands to lift it. And I do. I pick it up and start pounding the wooden stake of the fence trying to hammer it into the ground. I imagine that if I keep hitting it over and over it will vanish into the earth and the cows can run free and escape their death. But I’m not making any progress with the post. It doesn’t give at all, and the cows see my trying and we speak with our eyes. “I want to save you,” I convey, but they tell me to save myself. They tell me to take the rock and move on.

And I do because I sense the cows know something. I cradle the stone in my two hands and it becomes my heart, and I walk holding my heart out in front of me like it’s an offering. I’m not really surprised when I meet the cowboy even though I don’t really like cowboys. We face each other, and suddenly my heart/rock becomes a balloon filled with helium and it soars into the clouds.

So there I am left to decide, do I follow my heart or stay with the cowboy? In an ideal world my heart would lead me to the cowboy or to a cowboy or to someone as available as the cowboy. With my balloon heart soaring towards the clouds I can’t be certain where it is headed and where it will take me if I follow. Will it continue to climb high or will it veer off to the left, take a sudden dive and land me in a quiet field of wildflowers? It could happen just like how the innocent, penned cows told me to save myself. It’s all in the listening and the looking, the messages and signs around us daily, the ones we miss because we rush past in a predetermined hurry to stay on a schedule that we create not imagining the wise cows and soaring hearts.

While the cowboy is cute and standing before me, I opt to follow my heart, for flying without wings is an experience not to be missed. I will myself high and extend my arm to catch the teeny string tail of the heart balloon. With two hands I cling to the string and look down at my dangling feet remembering those years on the monkey bars with too-weak arms, where kicking of legs propelled me across the overhead railroad track of hot grey metal coated with the grimy sweat of elementary school primates. I kick my legs to direct the balloon as I kicked my young legs to move me forward towards my playground destination.

The cowboy grows tiny on the ground beneath my swaying legs, and I lift my head. Before me I see forever, knowing it’s forever even though I’ve never seen forever before and couldn’t have previously described what forever looks like. But here it is: forever is limitless hope. It contains every color and every dream, every motel and every rest stop. It offers the previously seen and the yet to be imagined. It’s both bumpy and flat at the same time and yet is not contradictory. Forever is like the universe with no foreseeable end. Forever promises things it can’t prove. Forever demands faith. Forever appears like a board game of fresh rules, a descent into a land once unknown but when you finally enter makes all the sense in the world.

Gliding beneath the balloon heart I get lost in sensation as cool wind slaps my bare legs and swirls my hair into a beehive. I want to offer the view to the cows, for they live too close to the ground. “They deserve this,” I think, “because they thought to save me first.” I wish them free once again, not wanting to soar at their expense.

Now that I am out of his sight the cowboy vanishes, for he was never truly real but merely a roadside mirage. Thankfully I didn’t stay to hold his hand. As a city girl, I made the right choice. The heart balloon twirls riding the air currents like a surfer on a wave. Finally we touch down in a vast field of dry California weeds. After the brief life in the sky, solid ground feels foreign and unsteady. I shake out my legs and work through a quick jig to find balance. Tall grass tickles my legs, the kind of grass the cows like to eat. I wonder if I can fall in love while the cows stay penned. It seems unfair, even if it’s what they wanted for me.


flutter said...

Cows are a wiley bunch, aren't they? This was lovely

Emily said...

Your beginning totally grabbed me. Cows reaching out to save. It pulled me right in.

Anonymous said...

And it's what I want for you to my friend. The timing will be right, I know it.