Daily Reading for January 5
That Epiphany Eve in 1985, it was cold. The frost on my side of the door had become a layer of ice by the time I sat down to work at eight-thirty. I was amazed, looking toward the copse, to see Buckwheat standing in the open field rather than with the herd down by the sheltering trees. Heavy with calf, she was gargantuan in the hard light of the January morning. . . . She could not have chosen a more vulnerable spot on so bitter a day, and I found myself drawn time and again from the papers before me back to the windows behind me. There was something about her absolute stillness that was almost bothersome. . . .
Buckwheat was easily the children’s favorite cow and Sam’s pet. . . . But Buckwheat had never liked me. Certainly she’d never shown hostility or threatened my right to move freely among the herd. She just didn’t like me. . . . So Buckwheat and I had developed an understanding, a kind of ladies’ agreement, over the years. When I came into the pasture, she backed away and waited until I was gone. . . .
Buckwheat . . . lowered her head to the ground and began to bob it as she licked and nuzzled the black mound of stuff on the ground in front of her. She had calved! That dumb cow had chosen the coldest, windiest spot on the whole frozen farm to calve in! . . . I went as far as the gate. Buckwheat turned her head, looked straight at me for a full minute, and then turned away. The calf did not appear to be breathing. I opened the gate, leaving it ajar behind me for hasty retreat, and slipped over into Buckwheat’s territory. She did not move. . . . I picked up the inert calf. Safely in my arms, it opened an eye. Frozen, yes, but not yet dead. I turned my back on Buckwheat and headed out the gate . . . and carried the calf into the house. . . . I did the only thing I knew to do. I sat down on the floor cross-legged and took Buckwheat’s calf into the warmth of my body, circling it as best I could with my arms and my legs. . . .By lunch, as we sat on the floor together, she had begun to wiggle. Shortly thereafter she tried to nurse my sleeve and I knew we were home free. . . .
I’d never thought much about Epiphany, never had any significant event to mark it before. The giving of the Child to the gentiles. Certainly there had been nothing godly about my day, and there would never be anything divine about Buckwheat. Yet I had never wondered before about Joseph. Why had he let the kings in? Did he need their gifts for his escape, need them to buy his Son safe passage to Egypt? Why would a Jew allow gentile hands to touch what he must have known by then was sacred? Did need drive Joseph as it had driven Buckwheat? . . .
As I blew out the Christ Candle for the last time until the next Christmas, I said to Sam, “Thank goodness we never have everything we need without having to ask each other.”
From What the Land Already Knows: Winter’s Sacred Days in the Stories from The Farm in Lucy series by Phyllis Tickle (Chicago: Loyola Press, 1985).