Doctor Dolittle

Mom remains the single most important source of my proclivity to understand nature.  She embodies the foundation of my ability to reach out and touch, on communal terms, the life of beasts great and small.  From her I gleaned an appreciation of life in all its many forms; from her I received a courageous approach to that which is different; from her I learned not to fear but to respect a world full of living things.

As Sharon, my aunt, pointed out last weekend after arriving from New York, Mom is also the family’s Doctor Dolittle.  No matter the species, Sharon stood amazed that Mom felt no fear of but plenty of compassion for every beast.

So here I present a bit of Doctor Dolittle in action.

One herd of cows had stood at the pasture’s gate for a few hours, perking up each time Mom stepped outside.  Some would even call to her.  A visit with her, they knew, was always a pleasant experience.

Around these parts, a cow moaning and groaning is referred to as “bellering” or, in the more precise vernacular, “beller’n.”  As with all animals who can make sounds, one need only listen and learn the language to understand what they’re saying.  I learned this trip the specific kind of beller’n that translated to “Where’s Mom?  Can we see her?  Mom, are you bringing a treat?  Why haven’t you come to see us yet?”

Eventually deciding to go visit them, even if for no other reason than to stop their beller’n, she grabbed a small bucket full of treats and we followed her.  The treats, by the way, are a compressed grain and molasses goody specially made for cows.  And how they love that stuff!

Mom giving treats to one of the young cows at the family farm

You might be thinking she has nothing to worry about as she’s behind a fence.  Nope.  She’s in the enclosure standing in the “run,” that part of the fence used to herd the cows on or off a trailer.  While most of the cows are standing on one side of the run, any of them could easily walk up to her.  Like this:

Mom giving treats to the bull at the family farm while a young cow gives a gentle lick

That happens to be the massive bull, the bovine equivalent of a leviathan.  He could easily trample a human without noticing, yet he loves Mom dearly and gifts her with his most gentlemanly behavior.  Well, most of the time anyway.  Sometimes he gets a little carried away with his affectionate munching.

Oh, and she’s getting some tongue action from one of the young’uns who really thinks they deserve more attention. . .and treats.

Mom's hand being suckled by the bull at the family farm as he enjoys some treats

Don’t worry.  No humans or bovines were harmed in the making of this post.  Despite looking as though he intends to eat her starting with her arm, he’s actually suckling the treat from her hand.

One bite and a cow that size could sever a limb.  Never did any of us fear such a thing would happen.  Despite not being terribly fond of others, that bull absolutely loves Mom and treats her with the utmost care.

One of the cows at the family farm giving Mom a good lick in trade for some treats

From the other side of the run came another cow who felt the service was not as prompt as it should be, so she offered a bit of an incentive: cow slime.  There’s a lot of tongue in one of those heads and they don’t think twice about slobbering all over the place with gleeful anticipation.

When the food had all disappeared and Mom finally stepped out of the pasture, I remained standing next to the fence as I snapped some additional photos.  I obviously didn’t pose a threat.

One of the cows at the family farm looking to me and my camera for some treats

That cow asked and asked for something I didn’t have: more treats.  When she discovered one hand empty, she turned to the other.  Where I was holding the camera.

Before I knew it, she slimed the whole camera and my hand looking for something to munch on.  It took me several minutes of wiping and cleaning before I could take another photo.

By then, however, the bull had come to see if I had anything to offer.

The bull at the family farm investigating me and my camera

Unfortunately, he too found I had nothing.  The herd began to mill about wondering if we had something in reserve, not wanting to walk away and miss something yet finding all the empty hands of little use save the occasional pet or pat.

We finally moved across the main yard to another pasture where the other herd rested.  Doctor Dolittle had one final show for my aunt.

You see, one of the cows is so smitten with Mom that she won’t let her come and go without stopping for a good scratching and petting session.  This cow is, in point of fact, Mom’s pet, Mom’s baby bovine.

If my mother walks into the pasture, this large puppy comes trotting alongside, gentle nudges and expectant glances included.  She simply won’t accept that Mom is there for any reason other than to pet her.

And so she does.

Mom giving some good well-deserved affection to one of the cows at the family farm
Mom giving some good well-deserved affection to one of the cows at the family farm

While the quality of those images suffered because I was shooting into the sun, I think you get the point.

There is a look of absolute trust and contentment on that cow’s face.  She’s so enjoying the back rub that she’d miss a nuclear war if it happened right next to her.

Keep in mind this doesn’t cover the chickens who follow her around and talk to her, and who even don’t mind being held by her, or the rabbits who curl up and coo softly in her arms as they wallow in a trusted embrace, or the various other animals who find my mother a kindred, loving spirit who cares for them as she would a child.

There’s no need to question where I got my ability to deal with animals on such a spiritual level. . .


Warmth belies a cool that hides behind afternoon sun, an autumnal visitor quivering beneath unseasonable temperatures.  I stand in shorts and sandals while heating rays blanket me.  Ah, but I know. . .yes, I know.

Nature’s way of reminding us about the season rests on surprise.

As we scurry about our evening business and settle in to home and hearth for a night of restless sleep before the morning’s too soon return, a change is coming, one already quite near and cloaking its approach in normalcy.  Only the wind will reveal its arrival.

Something in me feels like prey waiting for the predator’s ambush, waiting for talons or claws or teeth to leap over the horizon with ferocity.  Perhaps that’s the thrill of such sudden shifts in the weather.  Well, at least for me.

In a place I cannot see stands the unavoidable difference between today and tomorrow.  Only when its brusque hands caress me with northerly gusts will the beast finally be upon the land.

Until then, a near yet distant star hangs lazily in the southwestern sky, a dim brightness hardly comparable to its summertime intensity.  Beneath it a still cover lies atop an unsuspecting world, one where creatures play and rest in tepid waters of air.

Not for long, though.

Exploding comet update

This is SOOOOO cool!  From

Last week, Comet 17P/Holmes shocked sky watchers around the world with a sudden million-fold increase in brightness. It literally exploded into view, rapidly becoming a naked eye “star” in the constellation Perseus. Since then the comet has expanded dramatically. It is now physically larger than the planet Jupiter and subtends an angle in the night sky similar to the Moon’s Sea of Tranquility, the right eye of the “Man in the Moon.” Photographers, this amazing comet is an excellent target for off-the-shelf digital cameras and backyard telescopes. It grows visibly from night to night and no one knows how large it will become. Stay tuned to for sky maps and the latest images.

Random Thought

Try and penetrate with our limited means the secrets of nature and you will find that, behind all the discernible concatenations, there remains something subtle, intangible and inexplicable. Veneration for this force beyond anything that we can comprehend is my religion. To that extent I am, in point of fact, religious.

— Albert Einstein