Breakfast on the veranda. Purple blueberries. Golden bananas. Cornflower skies. The gentle Gasconade current.
I am alive out here. But dimly aware of it.
It’s funny what happens when you enter a new place. You start to feel like certain things don’t fit; like a sloughing is necessary. That’s how I feel now.
I spent more time with the cows today. They gathered around me in the pasture, apprehensively at first, and we kind of just looked at each other, a silent congregation. Was I going to poach them? Were they going to trample me? But as I sat there, they calmed down. They understood I was there simply to coexist. I could sense their energy. They’re very loving animals, but fearful too. Why shouldn’t they be? I’ll tell you the truth. There are two steers and they’re both due for an appointment with the butcher in two weeks. I do not want them to go; I’m having trouble understanding how someone could raise animals their whole lives, give them such a beautiful space to roam and eat and poop and pee, to laze and wander, to chew their cud beneath the cotton ball blue; only to send them off to the slaughter or the sale barn.
But hey, farms don’t run themselves. The farmer’s gotta pay his property taxes. And he’s gotta eat. One steer will produce 800 lbs of meat. If you do it right, you don’t have to pay for your food at all. Mark says the cows know their place on the food chain. They understand on a spiritual level that they’re here to provide for other beings. But what about enjoying their lives? What about swimming in the sunlight? Resting in the shade of a tall oak? What about cuddling your calves, and watching them grow?
The steers have a listlessness about them. They roam within the confines of a thirty-by-thirty foot pen. They eat well enough. But they are not free. They are the condemned. But here is the other thing: what is the alternative for them? There are two steers and five Bessies. And a pasture the size of two football fields. There’s enough food and water for all of them. No one has to shove. No one has to suffer. They live a pretty good life right up until the end.
But that’s not even necessarily the point. When it comes down to it, these cows do not get to choose their own destiny. They were born into domestication, and they will die just the same. Did the slaves that lived in the house with the master enjoy their lives? Were they supremely content with their lot? Probably not. Maybe through enough brainwashing there existed those individuals who would shun the possibility for freedom, the possibility to choose their own adventure. But by and large, I imagine most of them would sure as hell have wanted to take their own reins.
After all, are they not gifted with Free Will? Are the creatures of this Earth not endowed with autonomy? Are we not the sovereign rulers of ourselves? Well, I believe we are. And I believe, too, that animals enjoy the same existential luxuries, despite not having opposable thumbs, despite not having a fully developed frontal lobe, despite being more or less tied to the Sympathetic nervous system (the fight or flight response). I would go so far as to say that given the opportunity, every single being on this planet would exercise their powers of personal will.
And so I am coming to think that maybe, just maybe, I’m actually a vegan. I sat and talked to the Bessies tonight. Sirius was out in the eastern sky, glowing white. Amber clouds moved through the purple dark night. I sat off the roadside on my coat, sipped my water, and extended my hand through the barbed wire. They just stood there, and stared back at me. And I thought to myself, could I eat any of you? Could I? But nothing came to me. No definitive answer. I sat waffling about whether I’d eat these bovine creatures, with their dark hair, their heavy breath, their piercing eyes, and broad chests. And in my trepidation I arrived at a crossroads: on one hand I thought, no I could never eat any of you, and on the other, if it is okay with you. But I’m no Shaman. I’m not privy to these creatures’ thoughts and feelings. I can only stare into them and sense something equally divine pulsating inside them. And I think, if only I can eat myself.
Day 2. I have written little to nothing of my novel, but have written nonetheless. I sat on the couch in my studio, wrapped in a blanket, reading my Zadie Smith novel while the Gasconade, made brownish emerald by the sun, crept ever northward. I clomped through the forest, listened to the crunch of dead leaves beneath my boot. I walked through the Indian Wall pasture, where Mark claims a native tribe once lived and still lives in spirit.
I knelt down to admire the moss once more. One cannot help but respect moss for what it does. How even in the dead of winter it lives and breathes and thrives. How it glows when all other matter in the forest waits to be consumed by the seasons. Moss is the prodigal child of rain. Earth’s direct link to the Heavens. The definitive sign of symbiosis. The cousin of the fern. The nomad’s daytime compass. Moss sings the song of Brilliance, tells tales of eternity. Where moss grows, so too does opportunity. So too does the infinite goblet of being. Moss, the green embered hair of arthropods, the last relic of the Dinosaur. The altar of Pan’s pubis. The boot heel of Bacchus. The doormat of Diana. In the beginning there was the rain. In the end there was moss. And as I knelt down for a closer look, I saw that it was good.
Time does not hurry out here. It crawls like a single leaf in the dirt. It clucks and moos. Barks and yips. It rustles. And stirs. It leaves you alone when the Sun goes down, and taps at the window when it’s up. How some moments flash by, while others linger like that one friend who takes an hour just to say goodbye. How time is really just space. And space doesn’t care whether it’s empty or full. Whether it is spent or spared.
There is a rocking chair in the dream studio. That’s it. Just a rocking chair. And a dusty old crochet blanket draped over it. There’s a lighter on the floor. And a candleholder without a candle. There’s windows on all four walls. And thin white sycamores intermingling with the hickories. There’s oaks, and shallow ponds. Cedars and bramble. Stars when the moon’s out. And pastures far as the eye can swim. One must imagine fierce naps taken in the dream studio.
I am content here. The dogs keep me company when I’m lonely. They come when I call. In the mornings they gather around while I eat breakfast. They pant and sniff. Miley groans while she smiles, flexes her big white canines in the noon air. A beautiful rottweiler she is. I scratch her on the belly and between the ears. She likes that.
I can see myself here for longer than a month. I can see myself getting comfortable with this lifestyle. This space. This magical river that defies the laws of nature. It is a simple life. Rustic. There is no TV. No Netflix. Just time. And books. And good hearts. Good conversations. Artists pursuing their work. Dogs pursuing whistlepigs. Creeks full of mashed leaves. Stepping stones to quiet pastures. Orbs of blue green light dawdling along our walks. The Genius Locus (the protective spirit of the land) watches over me. Cradles me in her woodland breast. I am still finding the words. I am slowly shedding my skin. And this is the right place for it.