It hadn’t rained much out here this year. Drought had yellowed the fields. Twenty five years before I had travelled to Hopi nation. The colors of the fields in France reminded me of one late September evening when I’d crossed the state of Oklahoma on a Greyhound bus, as the last rays of the sun touched the red dust lands.
Instantly I felt a nagging craving to go back there.
The desert teaches…
A French farmer told me that crops of Cole seed and wheat were already lost. The dried-out fields were like an allegory of the moral crisis, that we’ve been living through these last years.
‘The desert teaches, ‘cause it takes away,’ the Walkabouts sing in a song called They Are Not Like Us. The desert, as a metaphor for our spiritual poverty, makes us fragile and open. We lose all spiritual certainties we have gathered in times of bless and rain in the blink of an eye.
The desert is unrelentingly peeling off layers of the stubborn shell with which we define ‘us’ as opposed to ‘them’. The desert boils us down to our essence: because there is neither ‘us’ nor ‘them’. We are snake and bird, predator and prey, Saint George and the dragon, all at the same time.
The lion and the lamb inside us learn to lay down next to each other: in the desert we finally become human.
Meanwhile back in our house on the hill we had new neighbors: a herd of cows, including a bull and calves. “Charolaise,” the owner said proudly. “They make for good beefsteak.” He smiled, but being a vegetarian that wasn’t a recommendation for me. But at least these cows would have had a good life when their final hour comes. The meadow was like a prairie, vastly stretching out on three sides of the hill. They could wander around for hours and hide under trees from the scorching sun. Every morning I greeted them and as Charolaise are very docile and quiet, I even dared to stroke their foreheads and slap them on their backs. There wasn’t much grass for them to eat, but rain was on its way.
That Saturday the heat was oppressive. The red kites, the golden orioles, the Charolaise, the drought-stricken fields, the insects buzzing in the red light of sunset and the glowing finger to the west pointing towards heaven, all were waiting for the thunderstorm that certainly would burst out during the night and shatter the pastoral to pieces…