Stop and Smell the Cows

Close-up of the head of a large, white cow in a barn; two others in profile behind it.
My friends the cows.

I take a deep breath. Cows. How long since I’ve smelled cows? I turn and see them, lined up in stalls inside the compact, white wooden building behind me.  The cows are mostly white as well.  And mostly quiet, so it must be past the milking.

Cows. In the west of Ireland, where I lived for 15 years, I inhaled their scent most days. I’d pass them in the field or barn, or they’d pass me on the road, heading for a summer milking. I’d find stray heifers munching grass in my back garden and navigate carefully around the occasional road-roaming bull.

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Robin fledgling on the back of a brown, woven chair, green spring foliage in the background.
A robin fledgling sits on my garden chair.

Opening the garden door this morning to another sunny, steamy, Philadelphia day, everything lush, green and growing, it takes me a moment to notice the small bird perched on top of my garden chair.  It’s very still.  It seems to be breathing hard.  I can walk right up to it and it doesn’t move.

“It’s hurt!” I think, “it needs help!”  I phone my friend Celia, who knows all there is to know about who does what in Philadelphia.  “Who can help me with an injured bird?” I asked.  “You’re the fourth person in two days to call me about an injured bird,” she replies.  “Don’t get upset, but if it’s injured and small, the mother has probably kicked it out of the nest and it won’t survive.”

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