One of our cows died this weekend. Santana the Jersey (who I actually wrote about in a recent post). She was a favorite around here for her sweet demeanor and the radical shift she made over the course of her life from kicky aggression to said sweet demeanor. I can only hope to be remembered for such a shift in the course of my life (though I’m not really one for kicky aggression… more of a control freak on par in intensity with the kicky aggression Santana was known for).

At a recent dairy meeting we had been discussing the size of our herd, looking at the approaching need for reducing the number of cows we’re feeding and caring for. Which means we kill them for meat — we being the royal We, not I the adamant vegetarian. Woody is our resident cow slaughterer; he homesteaded in British Columbia for 25 years, hunting moose for meat and making snowshoes from their hides. He wears a hat made from a beaver that he trapped and skinned, then formed into fantastically warm headwear. Living with Woody reminds me how unnecessarily complex we make our lives, and how basic and raw it really can be. RAW — what a word. Undefined chaos, unmediated, IMmediate… what I’m compelled to seek when I’m driven by my most basic core.

Santana was high on the list of cows to kill. My first reaction to hearing that she died was one of relief, that she chose death herself instead of us choosing it for her. Standing over her grave the next day, I felt a profound understanding of the nature of Life. Picturing her body under the ground, I felt a deep Knowing that her life as an individual had melted into Life, some exquisite Oneness of which I’ve sought understanding through countless books, dogmas, and drugs… only to be found (fleetingly, of course) over the grave of a dead Jersey cow.

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