Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

So, as I just posted, my heart hurts for some really good reasons.

Another good reason my heart is hurting, in a good way, is that I was just realizing that we will be able to share birthdays with my parents, starting next week, with Rose, my dad and Nora, all in a matter of a very short time, God willing. And not only that, but we will also hope to be able to celebrate my Mom's birthday with her, before you know it.

I don't think I realized how very homesick I have been. It struck me when the electrician from Texas called about going to check out our new place. "I'm fixin' to head over to the house," he drawled, and my heart warmed as I heard my mother tongue.

But this afternoon I got another phone call that has just about broken my heart.

One of our milk share folks is purchasing Coco and Mary and they will be picking the girls up tomorrow afternoon.

There is nothing that pleases me more than knowing Coco will be going to this sweet, dear family. Their two children have sat and watched me squat and milk Coco for a couple of years. They haven't ever owned a cow before, but they are reading all the books and articles and have built fencing and a shelter and are willing to do the hard work of learning to milk a cow because they love her milk so much.

There are many people who would have been happy to purchase Coco, but there is a deep joy knowing she is going to this sweet family. It brings to mind my first days and months with Coco, getting to know her, being so afraid of this monster big animal, when all I had ever milked in my life was a tiny little goat.

I remember cold winter days, squatting in the barn, nervous as could be, terrified she would kick me, wondering if I would ever get the hang of it, singing every Spanish love song I remembered from back in the day, and countless choruses of "I've Been Working on the Railroad." I could have hobbled her or tied her up, but was desperate to develop a mutual understanding and respect.

Little by little we got to know each other and she patiently let me know when I got it right and when I got things all wrong. Well. Sometimes. And sometimes she instructed me with a kick in the knee and a knocked over bucket of milk.

Coco taught me that she didn't like being milked in a stanchion, no matter how nicely built by friends. She preferred a bucket of grain, by the backdoor or out in the grass. So I adjusted.

I learned a lot about relationships with Coco as we shared the seasons, the bitter 8 degree days of winter when I buried my nose in her hay-scented flank and steam rose from the bucket. The early days of spring as we watched the willows awaken and little lambs leap in celery green fields. We counted baby chicks and watched fireflies and peepers serenaded us in summertime, and I had to be careful as her fly-swatter tail switched back and forth.

Fall was especially sweet as we noticed the different arc of the setting and rising sun over hayfields, causing the changing colors on the ridge to glow like polished gold and bronze.

Because of Coco I learned about the path of the moon during different seasons. Before milking I had no need to be outside at the same time every morning and every evening. I noticed the smell of the wind was different when storms came in from the Arctic and when they came in from the Atlantic.

Because of Coco I learned greater endurance and responsibility than I had ever known in my life. Milking Coco forced me to be still and listen. Milking Coco forced me to get up when I thought I might stay in bed for the rest of my life.

Coco provided income for our family. She provided the best milk, butter, cream, cheese, and yogurt I have ever enjoyed in my whole life. She provided a commodity we were able to share when we had little else to give. She provided beautiful babies, future mamas and a steer who provided us with almost two years worth of meat for our family.

I have been trying to ignore Coco for the last few weeks. Sure, I speak to her, and say hello and occasionally toss her a carrot or a cabbage.

But I haven't been milking, and that is partially because I have been directing my energies into preparing the farm to sell.

But I think it is primarily because I have been trying to wean myself from her.

I sit here on the deck, listening to the cicadas and the crickets and type in the dusk as the blue haze rolls into our valley. Tears cloud my eyes and sobs rack my shoulders as I look over and see Coco sweetly lick her daughter Mary and nuzzle Ribeye, her pal, tail swishing elegantly. Brownie tries to comfort me, but how can I be comforted when I will have to say goodbye to my dear friend tomorrow?

Never will I forget Coco. Her beautiful face, her dear frame, her spunky spirit. I am a better person because of her. I am a healthier person because of her, and not just because of the nutritious elexir she gave us. My children are healthier because of her. She has given so many people the gift of herself, it is truly amazing.

I love her and will miss her greatly.

Dear Coco,
Thank you for sharing yourself with me. Thank you for letting me milk you. Thank you for teaching me to sit still. Thank you for allowing me the privilege of witnessing magic, seeing your milk and cream metamorphosis into butter and cups of coffee and yogurt with vanilla and maple syrup mozzarella, ice cream and hot chocolate and thousands of loaves of milk and honey bread.

Did you ever realize how many peoples' lives you touched, dear Coco? You gave little children confidence as they squatted beside me and learned how to squeeze out streams of milk. You gave us pleasure, just by watching you live out your "cowness".

Never have I witnessed anything more beautiful or grace-filled than when I have seen you frolic with freedom and joy in a fresh spring-green pasture after the long winter. Your udder has warmed my hands. You have been my personal fitness program. You have taught me how to make up after we have had our squabbles.

It pains me greatly to have to say goodbye, but you know that when Philip died, we had to adjust, and sending you to live with our friends is one of the biggest for me. I trust that as we grow to appreciate our new home and surroundings and new friends you will learn to love your new home and new friends.

Please be a kind teacher and be gentle on your new owners, as they have a very good heart and already love you dearly. Be quick to forgive them as they make their own sets of mistakes.

I love you, Coco. I hope that somehow, in your bovine way, you will fondly remember me and our times together. Hopefully our paths will cross again sometime, and if not on this earth, then in some spectacular pasture in heaven someday.

Your human friend forever,


Chris said...

Thank you for this love letter to Coco. I have been blessed to have had this kind of relationship. I milked three cows, at different times, mostly while my children were growing. They each taught me so much as you said. Waking up with my head on the cow's flank, noticing the start of the day, and then having another space in the day for the evening milking, was a wonderful way to foster awareness. Cows are so beautiful and so thoughtful. My dogs are now my link to sentient creatures of another species. They are much smaller and less demanding but full of love and ready and willing to connect.

May you carry with you the blessings of friends and farm as you make your move.

Greener Pastures--A City Girl Goes Country said...

Aw, that was really nice.

I really related to what you said about being homesick and hearing your mother tongue! Whenver I hear someone with a Jersey accent, I love it! I miss home so much I'm listening to Springsteen. I wish I was going home too. You're lucky.