Grandma’s View: Why Cows Lie Down

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We look, but we don’t always see

There were lessons that were not well learned when I was raising my three kids. One was that I didn’t always hear their words because I was so busy spouting my own. “Be quiet! Listen to me!”
Today, when I hear a grandchild say, “Daddy, listen to my words!” I wish I had more often given my own children a chance to use their words.
Then there is the issue of looking but not always seeing. Henry David Thoreau said, “It is not what you look at that matters … it is what you see.” He nailed an obvious truth that I pretty much ignored when I was a young mother, but I think I may be doing better as a grandmother.
Finally, I can watch a grandchild being disruptive and look beyond the angry child to see what may be initiating the annoying behaviour. No wonder he’s frustrated. A favourite toy has suddenly broken and it also broke his heart! It’s the difference in seeing the whole picture instead of reacting to the snapshot.
I recently discovered that a child’s curiosity can also help me see.
I was driving just north of Toronto entering farm country. I was focussed on the car in front because it wouldn’t let me pass. Every time I started to pull out, the driver would speed up to block me. I’m not a patient person and I was muttering a hex upon him under my breath.
Then I heard, from the back seat, “Look at those cows, Gammy. They’re lying down. I’ve never seen a cow lie down before. Are they sick or are they just tired?”
I had only seen the irritating, slow car in front of me, but younger eyes had taken in the entire scene.
I slowed down so we both could drink in the panorama. Together, we noticed that the clouds were white so there likely wouldn’t be rain. We wondered if we had time to pull over and cut some of those bullrushes at the side of the road so he could surprise Mommy. (We decided that, without a knife, they would be impossible to cut.) What mattered is that, thanks to my grandson, I had taken time to see and the day suddenly seemed richer.
Later, when we got home, we got on the Internet and went looking for some answers about those cows. Nobody agrees about why they sometimes lie down. One school of thought is that falling air pressure may affect their digestive system so lying down eases their stomachs.
Other people insist that cows don’t always lie down when it’s going to rain. Often, they are seen standing in a tight bunch right before it rains, with their rear ends to the wind. But they do seem to react as a group. They all lie down or they all stand.
This piece of trivia you won’t remember or much care about. I likely will soon forget it, too. But it captured a moment so that I could see and not just look. And it was another lesson learned.

Published in June, 2011.

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