by RW Spisak
We’d traveled from Miami, up to Washington D.C. to participate in the October Peace Moratorium. This was a political rally in reaction to Nixon’s Vietnam War. The call went out for the rebel youth to gather. Those who wanted to work, march, maybe even fight, for peace to come and show the flag.
We didn’t come to war for peace. We came to vibe for peace, to march for peace, to call for peace, to be in solidarity for peace. If Martin Luther King Jr. could stand against the bigots in the south, we could stand against the international war-class. Martin stood against those whose entire life experience led them to believe that the black community was subhuman. We would stand against those who thought that human life was expendable. War existed to profit them a bloody dollar. If he could stand in the face of his enemy armed only with non-violence.
How could we disregard his example. We heard the anti-war rhetoric being used to enrage a mob to attack the armed and mounted police lines, we looked at each other and sighed. The three of us from Miami, had not traveled over a thousand miles to attack police. We began debating whether this protest mission was a complete waste of time, or was it amusing enough to hold our attention a little longer.
The decision had been made, we were headed back to the woods. The idea of staying here in the city, in spite of our journey of 1200 miles, was deemed irrelevant because of the tactics that the anti-war movement was using. The anti-war protesters were being manipulated into a violent confrontation with the police. Making them at best pawns clearly this was absurd. Whether by bad judgment or agent provocateurs it was bad policy. We were not sheep, we would not be herded to the slaughter. It was neither good strategy nor good morality. We were activists, but not-violent peace activists.
We had, purchased some very powerful materials for field research and now was launch time. Time had come, as we drove through the gentling rolling hills, the pastoral vistas of back-country Virginia. Leaving the political madness behind to reconnect with a more fundamental vision of reality. A small digression, the standard dosage of’ windowpane”, was a tiny fleck of something that appeared more like a slice of cellophane tape or a flake of mineral mica. Yet among the elect these tiny units were highly praised. They were typically divided into four tickets. Four passengers on one windowpane. However, Ray and r were experienced travelers. We each opened four windows rather than taking four passengers through one window. The liftoff was a steep climb. Fifteen minutes later…
Ray and I stood high in a pasture on a hill and listened to the music of the wind. The grasses and trees sang along. We were both musicians, and we were hearing the music of the wind. I would ask him what tones he could hear and if I said “g” he would report “g” and when I said’ C’ he would report “c”. The experiment evolved and we determined to establish the objectivity of the phenomenon and to convince ourselves. We took to scribbling down the chords we were hearing and then cross-check them, over and over they checked out. We were amazed we could hear-feel the music. The wind’s breath on the hill.
We had reached new vistas. We looked down simultaneously feeling so at one with the world, the winds, the sounds, and we find ourselves decorated with full “anti-war peacenik uniforms”. We knew that the plastic people would wear the button-down shirt plus tie plus three piece drone uniforms but we’d never seen ourselves as trapped in costumes. We thought we were freer than that. Yet we wore our own uniforms, tie-dyed, long haired, peace-sign covered, beaded bearded hippies.
No free-er in costume than the other tribes. I had an epiphany. I laughed, I transcended my own mask. I tore my clothes off determined to wear no more costumes, or at least not take them serious. I had to act out this psycho-drama it was a liberating action. After gaining my post-costume freedom. I ran for joy. I ran as fast as my ideas could carry me. I ran naked through the tall grass, Naked I leapt over trunks and bushes. I ran into a pine wood, the thicket kept getting denser and denser caressing me with the delicate brushes and gentle fingers of the pines.
I ran arms outstretched brushing the piney limbs, racing over the hills, until I reached the bottom of the hill where the pine woods broke at the foot of a brook, I paused suspended. Struck by the crystalline beauty and breath-taking wonder of this perfect brook as it tumbled at the foot of the pine thicket. I slowly panned the scene. A meadow of flowers to my right split by a brook wriggling through the crease at the bottom of the round hill. The hill was crowned by the rough log cabin that was our refuge. Turning to the left, another meadows then the creek and there was another guest of the piney wood and the singing brook. A guest that took my breath away.
The herd’s bull stood drinking from my gurgling brook, almost ten feet away. We had been warned before we came to Ray’s brothers cabin, under no circumstances approach the cattle that roamed the pastures all around the cabin. Ray’s brother had explained that for convenience sake the local dairymen who run this farm on which this cabin rests use electric cattle prods and consequently the cattle hate people and chase them whenever possible. In fact we were told to park adjacent to the cabin because the cattle were dangerous. Over and over we’d been told don’t wander around the fields because the cattle will gore given the opportunity.
Here was a large bull. His horns were impressive and produced the effect to my eyes of a Texas longhorn very wide and very sharp looking. He was drinking. I was looking down the stream right into his face about fifteen feet away: He was too close to run. No trees available to leap into just small pine trees with slim and useless branches. Yet I knew which part of me was really here. Was I the timid city dweller, unsure and unaccustomed to the wilderness, or was I really a woodland spirit only partially confined in a human form? I knew that if l related to him as a human, hairless ape, bipedal interloper unfamiliar with the natural order I had very little to expect except a dangerous confrontation. But instead if I was a spirit of the woodland and only partially defined as a human, I had a chance.
I could sense my center of balance. Was I man or was I nature, was I limited and apart from the reality around me an isolated ‘”man-against nature” being or was I apart of all that surrounded me, and thus no danger to him and his kind. I didn’t even have to decide. I could see him puzzle there a moment along with me and as I reached the judgment that I could no longer identify with a single disconnected man thing and my only serious sense of being was that of a glowing spark in the garden that is the blessing of the world around me.
He looked at me as puzzled as I was. The conclusion that I carne to, that I was more creature of light than “man” more a part of the natural landscape than a part of it. He seemed to be with me in my mind and as I came to the conclusion that since I wasn’t identifying as “man” but was a spirit experiencing intense electric oneness with my surroundings. As I came to the conclusion, that since I was no enemy of his, he was no enemy of mine. He nodded his assent and returned to slaking his thirst in our brother brook.
He took no further notice of me than he would a nearby leaf or a passing bird. Parts of the whole. The falling away of the fear, the re-membering of the unity. Any appreciation of the unity of self and not-self. The unity of human-life as a part not a partition from nature gave me a whole new strength. I walked carefully and delicately along the path of the meandering stream. Not because of any fear or worry, but stemming from a desire to tread lightly as I found my way through the living landscape. I had never felt so much apart of the world around me. Not merely the passive I’m not alone but the more active. I can feel those parts of me the trees, the leaves, the running brook, the sailing clouds. I was walking along the stream as it hugged the hill on which sat the cabin, it was getting late in the early spring afternoon nearing dusk. Later I would be told that the afternoon temperature had fallen from the moderate fifties down into the high and then mid-forties. % was still unencumbered by any uniform other than my human skin. I rounded the hill and decided that I should probably be heading back toward the cabin since it was nearing dark. The cabin came into view as I cleared another stand of pine.
There between the cabin and me was twenty of thirty cattle. I could not bring my self to call them cows and calves because their herd consciousness was palpable. I felt that the herd’s edge wall had such strong definition that even feeling as at-one as I felt any breach in that wall would be greatly suspect. This just didn’t feel right. Before I: could even think much further about it, I heard something, or to be more precise I heard that I would be hearing something. Then I thought well if I will be hearing something wouldn’t
the cows also be hearing something as well and in fact might not they hear something even faster or easier than I?
Then they did one head and then another began to turn looking generally in my direction, but actually if you looked close over my head to the hillside behind me. I figured that since they had turned they were hearing what I’d been anticipating. I decided to listen very closely and strain to hear what they might already be hearing still nothing. Then softly and quietly I began to hear something. The herd began to react as well. They could hear it also. What, we could all hear something, but what. Then it became clear, it was a pack of hounds. The herd began to call, low throaty sounds but exactly what they meant was completely obvious. They began to move closer together the calves began slowly almost imperceptibly to relocate toward the center of the mass of cows. The lowing began to increase. I was struck by the belligerent tone of the calling. This tone said. We are here, you are unwelcome stay away. I was watching closely since staring up the wooded hill behind me revealed nothing of the calling pack.
The cows not only began packing closer together and the calves were now well centered in the herd. Something else was clearly palpable. It was as perceptible there was a wall of intention surrounding and protecting the cattle. They had created a wall of protection surrounding the herd. They didn’t walk picket, they didn’t align themselves in anyway other than by intention. However the wall-of-cow, the wall of protection was firm and steely. I was amazed, I saw the wall of intention, the barrier form around the outermost cows grow and expand. This wall expanded out and filled the area around the herd. The wall expanded further and reached the brook at the bottom of the hill. The force field around the herd then reached me and then projected passed me. I felt, heard, smelled the power and firmness of the herd. I sensed the connectedness, the power, the integrity the fear-tempered with solidarity. I then watched the field extend another twenty or thirty feet passed the stream.
Finally the pack of hunting dogs began to be visible running down the opposing hill through the brush. They were running fiat out. They had momentum and they were calling with an enthusiasm that said they anticipated no opposition. They were calling in full-blood, they were hunters and they were after prey.
The wall now seemed to perceptively thicken, with the visual contact, the foe had journeyed from in-potentia to a visible enemy. The herd called with greater seriousness. r must explain. The call of an animal the cry of a herd may convey a range of messages. I listened and while I tried to discount my anthropocentric interpretation I had to concede the sounds I was hearing had evolved from an easy bravado to a determined even belligerent lowing.
The running dogs still far up the hill were running down hill as fast as they could. The thickened and strengthened barrier the “cow-wall” was palpably thickening and stiffening. The herd although nearly immobile hardly visibly showing any signs of nervousness or concern. No movement betrayed the sign of alertness. No heads turned, no signs other than the slight relocation of the youngest members of the herd toward the center.
As the wave of “cow wall” passed me I suddenly had an appreciation for the integrity of the herd. I had a glimpse of the strength they share. There joy in solidarity. I had never felt anything like it. I got a glimpse of the power of “‘ herd”. I experienced it in part, as a strong smell of cow, but it was not the breeze, I experienced it as a sense of four legged stability, but I stood on one leg, I sensed it as one might who was part of a solid phalanx of soldiers anticipating battle. But I was a peacenik. I had never imagined, much less appreciated, the appetite for battle. Then the wave of “cow victory” passed me edging further up the hill toward the galloping dogs. Now that the wave was further the sense of “edge of battle” was replaced by one of inclusion within the barrier.
Safety from the pack. It was amazing since my youth I’d felt an affinity to the pack since Kipling’s Mowgli appraised me of the law of the pack. Dogs loyal, cows’ food. It was like finding oneself in the camp of a foreign army and discovering a secret admiration for them. This was beyond experiencing admiration I felt that I could add my part of psychic strength to the barrier. I was in fact on the periphery I could contribute to the psychic bond. Then I did. I felt my own strong martial energy join with “cow wall”.
When I did I felt mutuality a comradeship. The participation that seemed merely mental seemed to have some additional benefits I could feel the strength of the herd filling my body the feeling of standing shoulder to shoulder. Creating the cow wall the ancient an honorable role of an senior in the herd. I was at one with the herd I could feel herd thoughts, I could feel their honor, their anticipation. The dogs finally come into view, running flat out in full call, a leader and two main followers. Then a clot of secondary dogs following behind them. What would happen? I could also maintain a separate state where I could doubt all of what I was experiencing.
I also was conducting a secondary track of “doubt-dialogue” critiquing all I saw and every moments assessment. . How could I sense the cows, why anthropomorphize them? With what sense, could I perceive this unity with the herd. What sense did it make to imagine a “cow wall”? What did I perceive by reporting this “cow-wall”? This barrier, that the herd had created, out of energy and intention. Obviously one could not see a wall of intention. – Yet I had, I saw it, I had smelt it, I had felt it, even as I doubted it. I could see it just beyond the stream. It hung there waiting for the onslaught of the pack.
What would happen? I asked myself what could prove the existence of “cow wall”, would the dogs perceive it, would the dogs belief in pack-power allow them to overcome the cow-wall”. I thought that if there was some discernible reaction when they reached the invisible and yet perceptible “cow wall”. The dogs running fiat out yet displayed typical pack behavior. The leader out front occasionally checking from side to side checking for his beta-dog buddies, are they still there are they still with him. The other two checking out each other and then looking to the leader for confirmation that they are right they are doing the right thing. The lesser dogs were running, less concerned, less motivated, regularly distracted, yet following along. Intention lessening as you went further back in the pack. All in all there were nearly eleven dogs, large hunting hounds coming at us down the hill. It was nearly dark and it was getting colder.
The dogs hit the wall. It was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen. The dogs bounced off of the invisible wall like it was granite. First the lead dog and his two buddies and then dog after dog hit the same spot near the creek and bounced off. Scared they turned and started running back up the hill. I was stunned. How could it be a coincidence. I could see the cow-wall. It hovered like the ring of an inflated inner tube there just passed the stream. The dogs had reacted to it like it was electrified.
The cows lowed in enthusiasm. There was a sense that the first attack had been successfully repelled. The dogs were running back up the hill as fast as they’d come down it. Flat out full run. Were they defeated? Was it the war, or was it just the battle that had been won. Time would tell and right now she was silent.
The dogs had run about two hundred feet back up the hill but the leader and his two best men began to slow, you could almost see them considering their options. Were they to fear mere cows? I watched them summon their courage, and yet, they slowed and then stopped, puzzled. The followers ran a little further on and then stopped also. Leader and his two lieutenants turned and headed back down the hill they would attack again. They were going deep into the well of courage. They were not about to be cowed ? The herd could not stop them this time. The lead dogs were now headed back down the hill again in full cry and running for all they are worth. The followers stood briefly, looked up the hill and back down toward the herd, back and forth then decided that they should at least follow the lead dogs. They started back down the hill as well trailing the lead dogs but gamely trying to catch up.
The cows seemed to take the sight well and the cow-wall thickened and became more formidable. The dogs ran. The lead dog would turn to the dog on his right, to the dog on his left in encouragement calling all the while, this is serious, we are dogs, we can do this. We will attack this herd they are our meat. They will fall before us. We can do this. Their cries left little to the imagination these were angry and embarrassed dogs they would not be humiliated again.
I watched as part of the landscape this battle which plays out again and again predator and prey, the pack and the herd, the meat eaters and the herbivores, the cow and the dog. Each a part of the drama, each committed to their evolutionary part. Each a part of a long and noble legacy. What would this episode bring. The cows continued nearly immobile almost silent, with the exception of quiet calls of solidarity. The calves, still near the center watched their surrounding elders would they survive, were they safe. Mom and Dad uncles and aunts would protect them they had the serenity of the over watched, the protected. Were they over confident, the calves exchanged glances.
All the while as I watched the ancient tableau I was simultaneously aware both of the drama that I was so privileged to watch and the dangers on anthropomorphizing that I was indulging in. It seemed on close examination not so much of anthropomorphizing the cows as identifying with the predator-prey dance. This dance we all know so well. Enacted as it is on the street corner, in traffic in the air-conditioned corridors of power and on the factory floor. Predator and prey, Shepherd and flock, employer and employee, wolf and elk, a dance never far from the heart, nor the stomach’s empty plight. The dogs propelled not just by the assist of gravity from the angle of the hill but propelled as much by the weight of the centuries and today’s hunger as their humiliation of minutes ago. They literally dove at the cow wall as convinced of it’s solidity as I was and as effectively rebuffed the second time.
Again they bounced back as if off a rubber wall again shocked, stunned and humiliated the yelped and whined as they retreated back up the hill. They ran with their tails between their legs, with their enthusiasms dampened immensely. They decided to attempt an end run. They would outflank the herd. They ran skirting long way around the cow-wall. The dogs ran flat out, attempting to find a weak point, and as they circumnavigated the herd, they gradually began to realize the wall was not to be breached. It didn’t weaken. I could see a bump like an earthworm band traveled with the press of the dogs. Running only to disappointment they veered toward and then away. I watched and waited as the herd exhaled. Then it hit me. COW VICTORY!
I passed among the herds virtually crowing COW VICTORY!