After days of unrelenting heat and humidity, energy and enthusiasm around the farm had sagged to a low ebb. I shuffled from chore to chore; the cows plodded lackadaisically to and fro, grazing little. I'd often find them on a sultry early evening standing in the last shallow pool of the drying creek bed, looking singularly, stunningly uninspired.
Over the centuries, cows have perfected this look - somewhere between wholly bland and totally blank, unmistakably bovine - to communicate to human caregivers their complete disinterest in moving a muscle.
The cows have been wearing it a lot this Midwestern midsummer.
Just as we all seemed to approach an impasse - in fact, we were all losing interest in everything - a cooling rain arrived, falling sweetly and steadily the night long.
When I awoke, refreshed and energized, the herd was already up, briskly moving over the recharged pasture. They gorged on the damp, delicious grass, making up for lost time. I lingered with my breakfast on the front porch. Morning milking could wait a while as we all took in the cool, welcome freshness.
Then I noticed that I and the cows weren't the only ones enjoying the respite; the near pasture was fairly exploding with cavorting birds. Rapidly I took avian stock: goldfinches, bluebirds, cardinals, robins, kingbirds, blue jays, Carolina wrens. Last, but hardly least, a pileated woodpecker swooped into the fray with a flash of scarlet, like some crown prince irresistibly drawn into the peasants' high jinks.
The air sparked with their wild whipping and darting, from ground to treetops to fence posts, into and out of berry bushes, and down to the ground again, as if they couldn't, for the life of them, keep still. Whether these birds of many different feathers were playing, fighting, or just blowing off steam, the scene was riveting - a multinational playground at recess, hot boredom's antithesis.
For their part, the cows didn't exactly electrify me as the birds did that morning. But they were willing enough to be milked in the after-flush of dawn, and they dropped that "look" overnight.
I'd probably brightened up in their eyes, too.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society