Cow Path

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Each day and night fly by faster than the previous.  It is as if time becomes exponentially more compressed than in the past, hurtling forward to an inevitable destination but the estimated time of arrival is unknown.

I struggle in my middle age to keep perspective while traveling this road of life, remembering where I’ve been, and hoping for the best about where I’m headed, but nevertheless sticking to the path without deviation.  My regret about this journey is that I rarely stop to simply take in the scenery, listen to the birds, smell the orchard blossoms, and feel the grass under my bare feet.  In other words, I’m getting really rusty at doing nothing and as a result, might end up doing nothing well. It is the conundrum of following the cow path laid down before me (see Sam Foss’ poem below).

Nevertheless, as with all cow paths, there may have been no greater reason for the bend or curve than a patch of tall appealing grass at one time, or a good itching spot on a tree trunk, the path I take may seem random without the focus on the destination.  I need to stop once in awhile, settle down for a really good nap, enjoy a particularly fine meal, read an insightful book, or play a lovely hymn.  It is not just the path traveled but the quality of journey we experience, some of which has little to do with “getting there”.

I enjoy the twists and turns of life, but only if I take the time to appreciate them.  Perhaps I’ll add a few of my own for those who follow after me.

COW PATH

One day thru the primeval wood
A calf walked home, as good calves should,
But made a trail all bent askew,
A crooked trail, as all calves do.
Since then three hundred years have fled,
And I infer, the calf is dead;
But still behind he left his trail,
And thereon hangs my mortal tale.

The trail was taken up next day
By a lone dog that passed that way,
And then a wise bell-weather sheep
Sliding into a rut now deep,
Pursued that trail over hill and glade
Thru those old woods a path was made.

And many men wound in and out,
And dodged and turned and bent about,
and uttered words of righteous wrath
Because “twas such a crooked path”
But still they follow-do not laugh-
The first migrations of that calf.

The forest became a lane
That bent and turned and turned again;
This crooked lane became a road
where many a poor horse with his load
Toiled on beneath the burning sun,
And traveled some three miles in one.


The years passed on in swiftness fleet,
The village road became a street,
And this, before the men were aware,
A city’s crowded thoroughfare.

And soon a central street was this
In a renowned metropolis;
And men two centuries and a half
Followed the wanderings of this calf.

Each day a hundred thousand strong
Followed this zigzag calf along;
And over his crooked journey went
The traffic of a continent.

A hundred thousand men were led
By one poor calf, three centuries dead.
For just such reverence is lent
To well established precedent.

A moral lesson this might teach
Were I ordained and called to preach.

For men are prone to go it blind
Along the calf paths of the mind;
And work away from sun to sun
To do what other men have done.

by Samuel Walter Foss 1895

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