Clover was our family cow, and she died last Friday, 36 hours after having her second calf.
I grew up in suburbia, with no connection and little understanding of natural processes, so that my apprenticeship year on a small farm in England, in my early 20s, was a continual epiphany. Chickens lay eggs according to daylight: fewer and fewer as the days shorten; more and more as late winter moves through vernal equinox towards summer. Who knew? Not me. I learned this, and a million other things, in my year on the farm.
I learned resurrection, too. I don’t mean that I learned to believe in a doctrine of resurrection; I mean that I formed the habit of seeing resurrection everywhere, and that I began to inhabit the resurrection rhythm: life rising from death–death taking life down into the earth–earth giving rise to life again. Living through the moons and seasons on a small, human-sized farm is a good way to become rooted in the fundamentals.
My wife and I wanted to raise our children to know where food comes from, to learn the responsibility of farm chores, and (hopefully) to have their character developed by daily contact with what is close to the earth. Clover was part of this life we chose for our family, and she played her part well: the children fed her hay on bitter winter mornings; they mucked her stall; and now they– we– mourn her death. She was a gentle, good cow.
The problem with the kind of resurrection that nature practices, is that the life that comes from death is not the same life as before. Clover’s body will nourish new grass in the field, but I want my cow back, not fertilized grass. My grandfather used to joke that one day he’d be “pushing up daisies,” but it’s him that I want alive anew, not a bunch of flowers.
Maybe the resurrection we see in natural processes on earth is only a copy, a facsimile, of the great resurrection promised in Christian scripture?Â When all that is and was love– all that held love, spoke love, drank love– will be renewed and restored in the bodies we knew? God, I hope so.