Our cow is no nicer than she was. She still gives us terrible trouble when the mood strikes. The other morning, for example, she cavorted about, kicking up her heels, brandishing her horns, charging toward us in a scary way. Our best guess is that it was too dark for her to see well, and she did not want to leave the safety of the barn. We altered our schedule slightly, and that behavior has not resurfaced.
So, maybe you’re wondering why I would talk of cow worship. Well, every morning, I humble myself to her. I serve her by carefully wiping the crap from a variety of her surfaces. Even in this challenging, relatively foul task, I speak calm words of praise to her beauty and admire her coat and express respect for her size and horns. I make offerings of affection, like a good rub behind the horns, that she might deign to accept as worthy of her greatness.
Then comes the part that really feels like sacrifice.
I kneel close beside her. I am under and behind the wideness of her belly. I am right beside the power of her feet, pretty much beneath the bulk of her. I am completely in the splatter zone of any of her elimination. It’s hard to remember to breath evenly as I reach under and work my hands along her teats. I feel very aware of how she could step on my bent knee or move quickly enough to knock me over. I press my forehead or cheek to the greatness of her side when she is not sullied. I feel the stiffness of my back and hands as I resist the amount I have to surrender to my task.
And finally, when I surrender, on the majority of mornings when she stands peacefully as I work, I know why people worshipped cows.
I have also been thinking on my years as a vegetarian and vegan. While taking more and more responsibility for my current choices to eat meat and milk and all things animal, I see the logic behind choosing not to. My cow is enslaved. We try to make it pleasant, and I am comfortable with our choices, but we require a hundred little sacrifices from her. She is parted from her calf for many hours of the day. We decide whether she’ll have shelter for a day or not. She is a herd animal isolated in a group two. We wake her most mornings so we can take milk she makes for her calf. (I know she makes an abundance of milk due to breeding, but I assure you she would rather the calf nurse than me milk her.) We chain her. We limit her diet and her ability to roam. And so on.
When I think of these things, as I meditate solemnly beside her, I think she might be due a little worship as well.