About the Birds and the Beeves

Of all the creatures in Ireland, great and small, bright and beautiful, wise and wonderful, or otherwise, the first being with whom I bonded were a group of cows on the edge of Maynooth University’s campus. I’ve written about the cows in earlier blogs, and to some extent they’ve taken on a memetic quality among people I’ve mentioned to them. My affinity for them has become an easy short hand reference for everything from the imagined rurality of a place on Dublin’s periphery to my own oafishly bovine nature. In the process I think it might seem like my investment in the cows is simply an extended bit, committed to for comedic effect. To the extent that any emotional attachment is an extended bit with slightly comedic undertones this is somewhat true, but in truth from my very first day I really did find peace and enjoyment from spending time with my mob of Maynooth mooers.

As I’ve mentioned in earlier updates, that first crowd of cows is gone, and I’ve long assumed a morbid end met my meadow-fed meaty friends. Since then a new group of bovines have arrived to graze in the dormant glades left behind, and I’ve begun to establish a connection with them, by which I largely mean feed carrots and apples to them. In the process of rebuilding my fractured farm life friendships, I’ve certainly enjoyed cataloging new cattle companions but I have lot completely escaped the melancholy regarding the departure of my earliest buds. This is in part due to the generally grim nature of their likely fate, but it also probably is partially derived from the way in which I have come to understand myself as somehow tied to that initial cohort of cows. Their brief stay on the Maynooth grounds was not all that much shorter then mine will have been by the end of this year. With only a few months remaining, I have little more time to try to match the impact they made, and I can’t even match the fertilizing factor that their feces provide.

Admittedly, preparing to leave Ireland is a long process, and I’ve only barely started it. However, it will reach completion sooner than later, and while I won’t be turned into ground beef, I will be sent back to Alabama which is not all that different really. I will be replaced by a different but recognizable group of Mitchell scholars and all that will be left is the ground I’ve trampled. At the beginning of the year I thought something similar, but I think the lesson I’ve taken from that insight is a little different now. Back then I interpreted the brevity, and replicability, of my time here as a dual challenge to both be all I could beeve and to take a little time to chew the cud. On final reflection that interpretation seems remarkably self-centered. I think the better lesson was that with so little time, few actions have as much potential for impact as just bringing a few apples.

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