outwait outrun outwit


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Yesterday it rained all day, with one lull in the evening, when I went for a stroll. The air was resinous, potent with possibility. In one yard, pink magnolia blossoms glowed in the streetlight. A sheepdog, lithe and russet with a white-tipped tail, like a fox's, followed me part of the way, over the bridge where blackthorn blossoms froth beside the river, past the cottage bedecked in witch's charms, by the stone walls of the crumbling wee Protestant cemetery, until we reach the door of my bungalow. Later that night a cow calved on the farm.

By morning, the calf still hasn't suckled, nosing instead at its mother's leg. My husband, cheek shit-smeared, grasps the calf's muzzle and slips a rubber teat into its mouth, first full of sweet-smelling colostrum and then milk pulled from its mother. The calf squirms, eyes rolling. Hungry cows low. Time in a shed is shit and hay and quivering hind-legs. Big satiny eyes, dumb for ages. Guiding the calf to sustenance, my husband’s hands are the hands of his ancestors practicing their old art, described by Wendell Berry as “the art of keeping tied all the strands in the living network that sustains us.”


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