As sure as calves in May …

Outside my window in east Galway, a small herd of suckler cows and their young calves graze and loiter, content it seems to me, and oblivious to the new normal.

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They love the freedom of the field. Could you blame them? Ladies of leisure, kept women, their only role in life to breed, feed their young ones, and get fat. They have all the signs of it in today’s sunshine.

The calves are such an entertainment. I love watching the transition from being the baby at their mother’s side to the brave attempts at taking their pecking order in the playground. The mock fighting and throwing down of gauntlets, safe in the knowledge that they can run back to their mother’s sanctuary at the hint of danger. Amused, I watch the young bull with the chin ball, exhausted from his activities, not knowing his place in all of this, thinking he is more important than he really is. And respectfully I survey the mature ladies, calm and confident in their experienced position in the herd. This is my favourite time of year. Every single year.

There’s something about the month of May that brings with it a feeling of renewal and hope. The hint of opportunity in the air, and a craving for progress. Make hay in May. Isn’t that what they say? Farming, especially in May, is filled with a promise of new life and nourishment. When you are on a farm you are surrounded by resourcefulness and abundance. Not just in the moment, but perpetually. Every year we plant seeds and every year they grow. The grass grows. We cut it. Every year the cows calve and come bulling again. Every year the lambs chase each other along the ditch by the roadside. Every single year.

This May feels like no other. The shadow of a global pandemic covers the country and everything beautiful about May seems to be invisible. We see so much fear and frustration. We see masks and closed doors. We have to remind ourselves not to touch each other. Every social instinct we have is being suppressed in order to fight a disease that has deprived us of the relationships and interactions that we once took for granted, and much more. But if we look out our windows, we will see that everything about May has come round again. Flowers, green trees, breezy sunshine, innocent calves, oblivious cows. Even in the face of this virus, May, in all of its glory, has announced itself this year like it does every single year.

It is at times like these, times when we are hurting, that we should remember that everything has a beginning and an end. That which ends is the beginning of something else. Summer turns into winter, the cycle continues, and May comes round again. Given enough time, what seems heart-breaking today will someday be the past. The cycles of life present themselves to us, play themselves out, and smooth over the bumps and cracks of our lives along the way. Energy is recycled and everything works out in the end. Everything passes, good and bad. There is no doubt about that.

My mother, a wise woman, once said to me, this too will pass. It takes faith and courage to believe in the cycle of things. Napoleon famously said to his troops, “courage isn’t having the strength to go on, it’s going on when you don’t have the strength”. On the tough days, when your pluck has deserted you, it is easy to lose hope. These are the times you need to remember that nothing lasts forever. Not love, not hate, not Spring, not pandemics. Something new always begins in its place.  I hope that when I am looking out into this same field next May, watching the ladies of leisure, and some new buck with a chin ball strutting his stuff, I will feel that same sense of renewal, and will remember that we all got through this year, because that’s how it goes. Time passes and everything works out. You may not always see it when you are in it, but it’s worth remembering that not all storms come to disrupt your life, some come to clear your path.

2 thoughts on “As sure as calves in May …

  1. Lisa, you are a poet, disguised as a scientist. Thank you for these lush moments of belief in the cyclical nature of the world and the human spirit…


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