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.

Comments

Love!! Made me smile. I'm sure it was Wordsworth who said, "Nature never did betray the heart that loved her" xxxxxxx Hugs.

Such gentle bovine patience.

Once on holiday in the Peak District I sat with a group of friends in a field, eating the sandwiches we'd brought with us on our walk. Soon we were joined by a small herd of calves who had obviously just been seperated from their mothers. They just stood and watched us in gentle curiosity. I felt so guilty eating the cheese that had obviously been made from milk that so easily might have nourished them just a few short weeks before.

But as a friend pointed out when we left the field, it could've been much worse...at least we weren't eating beef.

Cow in the Road

She is an obstacle
to overcome.
A moving rock.
Beef on the hoof,
Warm milk machine.
Red light in the morning
travelers take warning.
Two horns away
from a bullfight.
Great granddaughter
of a mastodon.
Morning breather,
grass weaver.
Rumplestilstskin
in a cow suit
turning straw
into cheese.
Sit on a stool,
put your cheek
against her warm side,
hands on her teats,
and milk--that memory
of childhood--
will splash against
your aching feet.

©2016 Jane Yolen all right reserved

'human speech is simply our part of a much broader conversation'. I have 'The Spell of the Sensuous' by David Abram - unread- on a shelf. Must admit I feel a bit intimidated by it. Now after reading your 'The broader conversation' and the lovely quote that title came from I guess I must change that before adding 'Becoming Animal: An Earthly Cosmology'. It is tempting though.

This is beautifully insightful and I am very drawn to the perspective of David Abrams. I did not have cows crossing in front of me on a particular day -- but bluish gray pigeons. And near them, a lot occupied by the ruins of old warehouse. Eeerily haunting, both birds and place had something to say and engage my imagination. This quote by Mr. Abram

"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,.."

made me think of those pigeons, place and a poem I wrote about existing in parallel worlds because of impressions or ideas invoked
by a silent but communicative presence.


So It Seems

A flustered breath of blue
veils tinged with gray, women in burqas
hurry home, winging past trees and traffic.

So it seems.

Ruins of a warehouse
linger on a lot
where concrete pillars catch
the shadow of catatonic flowers.
No wind while scattered nails
chalk and glass
diagram the dirt, showing how
remnants mark an experience.

Piled in a corner, large crates are left
to serve as desks, an adobe wall
for their black board. A sudden
storm air stirs in the distance; and dust
skirts around those heady stalks
like girls gusting in thought, strong-willed.

So it seems.

The midday sun has been very hot;
its shimmer miraging the street.
A few hours before, some pigeons
scattered in bluish flight
and a haven for dealer kids
was haunted by a different influence.

So it seems.
____________________________
Loved this post and all the thoughts discussed here! Many thanks
Terri!

Take care
Wendy

Hi Jane

What a view of the cow and its influential -- I love what details and impressions you derive this animals presence and power. The language is wonderful and this stanza really enchanted me --

Rumplestilstskin
in a cow suit
turning straw
into cheese.
Sit on a stool,
put your cheek
against her warm side,
hands on her teats,
and milk--that memory
of childhood--

It brought back memories of growing up in the countryside of NY state and seeing cows browsing in fields along our farm road. Thank you!

Take care
Wendy

OOOOOOOOO, poetry gush here

"No wind while scattered nails
chalk and glass
diagram the dirt, showing how
remnants mark an experience."

Wonderful images throughout, the enamalist at work. You nail it
every time, Wendy. Thanks.

Jane

Thank so much Jane

Your kind words and interest in this poem are deeply appreciate!

Take care
Wendy

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