Hey, Ladies. Yes, that IS a picture of a person milking a cow. And yes, she's sitting on an old tractor seat (no longer attached to the tractor). And yes, I was there taking the picture. I also want to point out, just so you'll be impressed, that it was six a.m. and about forty degrees.
What will not impress you is the fact that during my stay on the sheep ranch in Montana (doing research for my upcoming book) I never did attempt to milk Helga (the cow) myself. Even her owner referred to her as an "attack cow". (Who knew there WAS such a thing?) and after one "attack" too many he sawed off the points of her horns. No wonder she's ticked off! Helga is so stubborn she even holds back her milk when she doesn't want to give it to Lisa (because she prefers to give it to Louis, her very entitled calf who seems to have inherited his mama's personality). I didn't know they could even do that, did you? Anyway, it seemed safer not to try to milk Helga, even though she was locked firmly in a chute the entire time. She was prone to pooping in the bucket, which was enough of an attack for me.
Anyway, I WAS going somewhere with that. Because I wasn't directly involved in the milking of Helga every morning during my four days there, I took up a position on a nearby bale of hay and talked to Lisa while she squeezed away at Helga's udders, often with Louis working on the ones on the other side to get Helga to give it up. Lisa and I talked and talked and talked the entire time I was at the ranch, but I have to say some of our best conversations happened while Lisa was milking and I was perching. There was something about the slow, steady rhythm of her work and the sweet smell of the straw and the thin early morning light filtering through the fence and the gradual waking up of the rest of the ranch (chickens muttering, horses nickering, all that) which made conversation flow as smoothly as Helga's cream. (And I can vouch for the cream, by the way; it was delicious in a cup of tea. Fattening, but delicious).
It occurred to me about the third day that those udder-side conversations with Lisa were a lot like good conversations with God, which we've already determined is what praying is. (If you missed the last post you might want to go back and catch up). No hurry. No anxiety. No pushing or pacing or getting frustrated with silences. Just the smooth flow of give and take in the most unlikely time and place.
Seriously, couldn't the best prayer be like that?
*You take up a sort of mindless activity, like brushing your hair or vacuuming your room or going for a run or even knitting something simple.
* In the midst of the quiet, steady rhythm, your mind goes free.
* And there's God, right there, watching you, enjoying you (mystic Meister Eckhart wrote: "God finds joy and rapture in us.")
*He's there.You're there. You aren't going anywhere else because you're brushing your hair or knitting a scarf. And so you strike up a conversation about what's on your mind, since you don't really have to think about what you're doing.
* Just as if you were talking to me nearby on a bale of hay or a friend lounging in the next chair, you say, "You know what I've been thinking?" "What do you think about_____?" "I've been wanting to get this off my chest for a while now." "Since we're here together, I thought I'd mention . . ."
* The focus doesn't slip out of your hand like a bar of soap because you aren't trying so hard to keep it there. The words flow in rhythm with the needles or the colored pencil or the hairbrush. The pauses for reflection are as natural as the inahles while you run or the refolding of the rag you're using to polish the table.
Just a few days ago I got an email from Lisa who wrote: "I don't really know where to start except that I know if you were here, sitting on the straw next to Helga's milking chute, I would take a deep breath in anticipation of what we might talk about."
Why not take that deep breath now? Why not choose a slow, rhythmic, don't-have-to-think-about-it activity that you can do for, say, twenty minutes? My faves are walking, folding towels (I tend to let the laundry pile up, so, yes, it does take me twenty mnutes to fold!) and making potato salad (lots of peeling and chopping and mixing). Coloring in a coloring book also works for me. Why not let yourself get into the rhythm and then bring up with God what's on your mind? No agenda. No expectations. Just God enjoying you and you being enjoyed as you let it flow out with the rhythm of your broom or your laps in the pool. Why not? What do you have to lose? And what, oh, what, do you have to gain?
If you'd like to comment:
(a) tell us what cow-milking-type activity you'd choose to do while having a smooth, lovely conversation with God.
(b) and if you want, share with us what question or topic you'd start with or what God might want to talk with you about
Take a deep breath of anticipaton, because this promises to be a great conversation.