When we lived in England, we witnessed the birth of a calf in a peculiar setting. We were driving along winding country roads, turned a corner, and saw a newborn calf lying in the middle of the road, covered in her still-warm afterbirth.
During the decades since that day, our (now adult) children complained: “why do you always get to save the baby cows?” (They had been restricted to the safety of our car, pulled off of the road with flashers blazing.)
To describe it succinctly, we were able to set up warnings along the rapprochements and lift the newborn infant into farm-familiar hands. While I attended to approaching traffic, a neighbor farmer picked up the little one and carried him or her to their mother who was mournfully mooing on the hillside above.
You see, she had backed up near the fence that surrounded her pasture, and when the infant was delivered, it slid down the fifteen-foot embankment onto the road.
I directed the traffic, while my wife Delores assisted the farmer in conveying the child to its mother.
I was surprised by what I saw as we climbed up into the field. There was the mother of the lost infant, crying out in her misery for her terrible misfortune. And gathered around her were the rest of her herd, mooing in anguished sympathy for her loss.
When we laid the bloodstained calf on the ground behind its forlorn mother, we called out to it to turn and recognize the deliverance that had dawned. The mother approached the calf, with the rest of the cattle hanging respectfully in her wake.
She sniffed at her little one and began immediately to lick it clean and smother it with love. The plaintive cries gave way to soothing moos, and a holy calm fell upon that field.
It was a glorious moment I will never forget. One of those where we recognize the privilege God has granted us to simply be in his presence as we gaze in awe at his creation.
C.S. Lewis and the Wonder of Cattle
In July 1930, Lewis wrote to his dear friend Arthur Greeves, complaining about the burden of “marking papers” at the end of the academic year. He then gently rebukes his friend for thinking that the discussion of the mundane matters of home life are insignificant.
Thank you for writing–I enjoyed your two letters enormously. Do stop apologising for them and wondering archly . . . how I can read them. Surely it needs no great imagination for you to realise that every mention of things at home now comes to me with the sweetness that belongs only to what is irrevocable.
Those who have left the rural life for academia can relate to the sentiments of C.S. Lewis. He loved the ambiance of Oxford, but missed the simplicity of the common world.
Lewis thanks Greeves for his description of the birth of a calf and confesses his own moral shortcoming in not celebrating without reservation the wondrous moment.
Oh you can’t imagine the poignancy with which your account of the sunny windy day near the dry tree fell across a dreary, dusty afternoon of those sordid papers, when my head was aching and the boys’ horrid handwriting seemed to jump on the page.
I don’t know quite what I feel about your assistance at the accouchement of our sister the cow.
I know what I ought to feel—simply the same thrill that I feel at the first coming up of a flower.
Physical disgust is a sensation which I have very often and of which I am always ashamed. If one lets it grow upon one it will in the end cut one out from all delighted participation in the life of nature. For God is gross and never heard of decency and cares nothing for refinement: nor do children, nor most women, nor any of the beasts, nor men either except in certain sophisticated classes.
And yet its hard to feel that the faculty of disgust is a sheer evil from beginning to end. I don’t know what to make of it. (Perhaps in one way it is, in another, it isn’t!)
Lewis closes his letter with an entertaining reflection on the amazing scenes such as I witnessed long ago in the English countryside.
At any rate there can be no two opinions about the delightfulness of seeing the other cows coming round to inspect the infant. Did they show any signs of congratulating the mother? for I notice that when one of our hens lays an egg, all join in the noise—whether that is congratulation or simply that they regard themselves as a single individual and announce “We have laid an egg.”
If you have another free moment, check out this great post on the spiritual value of maternal instincts . . . You can read Gloria Furman’s thoughts at desiringGod.