Message Received

What began as a warm morning came to an end with the temperature dipping below freezing again before bedtime. During the day the parched earth drank water as though it never had it before. Eventually, puddles formed, then were slowly absorbed like a connoisseur enjoying the last of the summer wine; only this was just the first bottle being uncorked.

It has not been an easy winter; life struggles still. But where there is struggle, “Hope” makes her presence known. “Don’t let the sacrifice mean nothing,” Hope says.

Hope is born from strife. Whether you are male or female, she arrives to help you find strength where none existed. She isn’t just born from life, she gives birth to it. Without her, life is incomplete.

Who could keep the scales balanced or hold a torch so high for such a long period of time without Hope? Who else asks for so little and provides so much?

It is just after 11:00 pm as I am writing this. In the freezing cold darkness, a lone cow bawls. She sounds hoarse. I wonder if her ears are pointed at the ground. Do her eyes stare at the ground as well? Does fluid from a respiratory illness drip from her nose like it has from mine recently? Where does she find the strength to raise her head and call out while others continue to succumb to the inevitable?

She continues to speak. She refuses to give in or to give up. For her, hope remains alive.

This is my first experience living in a place where respiratory disease (as a suggested cause) has infected the cattle so thoroughly. The herd (who normally leave those who can’t keep up behind as they move from one place to another) wait for even the slowest to catch up now. The scene is as heartbreaking as inspirational.

A very kind employee at the Chickasaw Cultural Center in Sulphur, Oklahoma, once told of a story about the animals one day communicating with humans again, as they used to do long ago. Their silence is said to have started when hunting turned from survival to sport. Two days ago, I witnessed something akin to communication. Whether I interpreted it correctly is difficult to say.

Over the years, I’ve watched behaviors in various species resemble teachers and students, parents and children, childish rivalries, mischief, rule breaking, and conformity.  But I had never seen two cattle asking, pleading, seemingly begging for someone to listen. Others turned away, laid down, or simply stood facing other directions, but not these two. They remained motionless, staring at the house, refusing not to be noticed, as if to say, "Listen! See us! We are still alive!"

Looking the other way, blending in, remaining quiet in such a way as to be unnoticeable isn’t as difficult as one might think. Communicating is the difficult thing to do. It takes a special kind of strength to not follow the herd and do something others aren’t willing to do. To stand out and say what needs to be said when something is so wrong that all others have abandoned hope, takes a remarkable act of defiance and bravery.

“Don’t let the sacrifice mean nothing,” a voice cries from the darkness. To which I reply, “Message received.”