We have just gone past these festivals celebrating the return of the light, the fattening of the seed under the earth. I love this time of year as the days noticeably lengthen and the sunrises can still be seen without having to rise horribly early. In the recent snow the curves and billows of our fields is arrestingly revealed – soft, pure, delicate. The field edges marked out so beautifully with the skeleton trees and lines of hedges. Delicate shifts of colour in a largely black and white scene. And beneath the snow the sturdy aconites and snowdrops are already clustered along a walk near us, along with their quieter cousin the dog’s mercury. The buds are fat on the trees and hedges in their many hues and the lichens catch the evening sun vividly – gold and bright green. Who says winter is dull? Last year’s new lime stems on the trees in the White Horse avenue show bright red and shiny against the sky and the birdsong gets ever more insistent. I have also been lucky enough to be singing a lot this weekend and I feel so grateful for my many friends in Oxford who are both skilled singers, songwriters and teachers and who share their skills so generously. We went to sing in a church graveyard that has been struggling recently with a lot of vandalism and drug use. We passed a light and lit our candles and sang around a small brazier. The idea was to cleanse the site and renew a commitment to loving and caring for it. I definitely came home lighter and more centred and I suspect the place will also have felt the benefit given our interconnectedness to all life on so many subtle levels we cannot begin to understand or measure. I wonder what your personal medicine is. It took me a long time to feel confident enough about singing but now it definitely is for me thanks to the support of many musical friends.
And this weekend a calf was born on the farm – a sturdy young bull. It was nightime, the fields gleaming white around the lit barn. I found myself just standing there quietly watching mother and calf become acquainted. Around me the shifting of the others cows moving in the golden mounded hay, munching, peeing, occasionally nosing at the new calf - getting on with their lives and welcoming in the newcomer. The mother began to clean off the calf after Adam had first rubbed it down and ensured it was breathing properly. The licking was vigorous and thorough. All over its body her strong tongue went pushing the limp body around with her head waking it up to being alive, driven by the urgency to ensure this small creature could fend for itself. It began to lift its head. She mooed a determined lullaby – low and intimate. Gradually her head was used to lift up the calf’s body, to urge it to find its own feet quite literally. A stumbling attempt – two back legs braced and wobbling, the front still folded under it. Then a rest. Then the licking resumed, over and over until again that great rough tongue and insistent heavy head, gentle and implacable, finding a way to help the calf up onto those creamy immaculate hooves. Minutes passed as I willed the calf to stand up and feed. And I began to think about how our babies arrive into such helplessness and can remain there for such a long time. How we have arms and hands with which to caress them, care for them and if necessary pick them up and run with them away from danger. I felt very lucky to be human to have these arms and hands with which to comfort others. To hold and be held when I need it. And at the same time I knew that if I was a cow that sweet heavy breathing, that mighty head, those sturdy legs and the roof of her great body would bring me that sense of safety in another way. How mysterious it is when we really try to fathom another creature. How diverse. How rewarding.