Following the Cow Path

Emily - Everson, Washington
Entered on September 8, 2008

Each day and night seem to fly by faster than the previous. It is as if time becomes exponentially compressed, hurtling forward to some inevitable destination via a well traveled pathway though the estimated time and place of arrival is unknown.

I struggle in my middle age to keep perspective while traversing this road of life. To remember where I’ve been, and hope for the best about where I’m headed, I nevertheless tend to stick to an established path without deviation and without an ounce of originality in the road I take. 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 meander off the path to feel the grass under my bare feet. I’m really rusty at doing “nothing” with flare and verve and as a result, may end up doing nothing really well.

It is the conundrum of following the “cow path” laid down years before, as described in Samuel Foss’ 1895 poem of that name. He describes the initial path a calf took on a given day long ago, becoming an established animal trail to be followed by human travelers, then wagons, then cars, until:

“A hundred thousand men were led

By one poor calf, three centuries dead.

For just such reverence is lent

To well established precedent.”

“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.”

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, a boulder in the way, or a good itching spot on a tree trunk. My own life’s path may seem somewhat random when the end point remains a mystery, but I believe it is time to blur the focus on reaching the destination above all else.

Instead, I need to stop moving so quickly and take a deep breath once in awhile, settle down for a really good nap, enjoy a particularly fine meal, read an insightful book, or sing harmony with my kids. Life is not just about the path traveled but the quality of journey that counts, which has little to do with “getting there”.

I enjoy following the twists and turns of life, if I take the time to appreciate the fact others may have traveled this winding path before me. Then perhaps I’ll be brave enough to add a few detours of my own for the enjoyment of those who follow after me.