Relationship and reciprocity
Tunes for a Monday Morning

The Broader Conversation

Cows in the lane

On a witchy and misty Dartmoor day, winding through the narrow lanes near Hound Tor, Wendy Froud and I are stopped by three cows. "The Three Fates," Wendy says as she breaks the car. The cows approach with deliberate steps, as if with a message they mean to deliver. They are big, gentle, remarkably graceful; too large for the fairy cattle of Devon folklore but holding their own bovine enchantment. In the moments of silence that pass between us, the moor, perhaps all the world, stands still....

Cows in the lane, 2

Then they turn as one towards Manaton, leaving as purposefully as they'd come. We hold the silence until they are gone. Goodbye, lovely ladies, goodbye.

"All things have the capacity for speech," writes David Abram (in Becoming Animal), "all beings have the ability to communicate something of themselves to other beings. Indeed, what is perception if not the experience of this gregarious, communicative power of things, wherein even obstensibly 'inert' objects radiate out of themselves, conveying their shapes, hues, and rhythms to other beings and to us, influencing and informing our breathing bodies though we stand far apart from those things? Not just animals and plants, then, but tumbling waterfalls and dry riverbeds...

Cows in the lane, 4

"... gusts of wind, compost piles and cumulus clouds, freshly painted houses (as well as houses abandoned and sometimes haunted), rusting automobiles, feathers, granite cliffs and grains of sand, tax forms, dormant volcanoes, bays and bayous made wretched by pollutants, snowdrifts, shed antlers, diamonds, and daikon radishes, all are expressive, sometimes eloquent and hence participant in the mystery of language. Our own chatter erupts in response to the abundant articulations of the world: human speech is simply our part of a much broader conversation.

Cows in the lane, 3

"It follows that the myriad things are also listening, or attending, to various signs and gestures around them. Indeed, when we are at ease in our animal flesh, we will sometimes feel we are being listened to, or sensed, by the earthly surroundings. And so we take deeper care with our speaking, mindful that our sounds may carry more than a merely human meaning and resonance. This care -- this full-bodied alertness -- is the ancient, ancestral source of all word magic. It is the practice of attention to the uncanny power that lives in our spoken phrases to touch and sometimes transform the tenor of the world's unfolding."

Cows in the lane, 5The passage by David Abram is from Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology (Pantheon, 2010); the poem in the picture captions is from The Writer's Almanac (Oct. 7, 2005); all rights reserved by the authors. This post first appeared on Myth & Moor in 2012.

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