The Bovine Chorus

It’s quiet this morning just after dawn. I ponder the line “Happy are they who know the festal shout!” [Psalm 19:15]. A sound I’ve never heard here interrupts the bird calls and my daily reading.

The single loud moo from miles to the west drowns out the sounds of the wetland. A few minutes later the solo becomes a bovine chorus!  A festal shout — celebration perhaps? A bovine Handel’s “Magnificat“? Perhaps a mother has given birth to her calf? The herd is cheering!

Minutes later the shouting is over. The mooing stops. But I heard it — both the solo and the herd — the strange interruption of the wetland’s native sounds. An osprey flies overhead. The sounds are as they were before: the woodpeckers’ pecks and red-wing blackbirds’s song. All is quiet again. The cattle are lowing; the poor baby sleeps!

Maybe the wind has shifted. Or perhaps the Madonna and the rest of the cows are sleeping after the exhaustion of the birth and the festal shout. Or maybe my ears had tricked me. I think of Otis Moss III’s reflection on singing the blues and “the gospel shout” [Blue Note Preaching in a Post-Soul World]. Only those who sing the blues can shout the gospel (i.e. good news) shout.

Then I drive into town. Had I been hearing the festal shout followed by the cattle lowing? Or had the bovine chorus ended in tragedy? “Probably a wolf or bear!” says a stranger at the hardware store. “Cows can raise quite a ruckus; they can become very aggressive when a bear threatens the herd.”

Whether the sound rose from the blues or from joy, my imagination prefers the festal shout, the bovine Magnificat. I could be wrong. The guy in town could be right. Whatever it was my ears heard this morning, I want to take it one step deeper: before and after the shout, there was and is the Great Silence from which comes every sound.

  • Gordon C. Stewart on the wetland, May 8, 2018
This entry was posted in Life, nature, Spirituality and tagged , , , , by Gordon C. Stewart. Bookmark the permalink.

About Gordon C. Stewart

I've always liked quiet. And, like most people, I've experienced the world's madness. "Be Still! Departure from Collective Madness" (Wipf and Stock Publishers, Jan. 2017) distills 47 years of experiencing stillness and madness as a campus minister and Presbyterian pastor (IL, WI, NY, OH, and MN), poverty criminal law firm executive director, and social commentator. Our dog Barclay reminds me to calm down and be much more still than I would be without him.

11 thoughts on “The Bovine Chorus

  1. 😊🎼…bovine Handel’s Messiah… I’m trying to remember if I ever heard of a Magnificat by Handel. Magnificat? … My soul doth magnify the Lord? … Meine Seele erhebt dem Herren? … I don’t remember one…… He certainly wrote music I never heard of, but “For unto us a child is born” is definitely Messiah — I’ve sung it surely more than 30 times. 🎼🎼😊

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aha! I should have known. It’s sort of a magnificat, CA, from Messiah, of course. When writing for Views from the Edge, the writer gets to be over the edge. He gets to be a doofus! It’s always come easily to me. 😳🥃


  2. Gordon, The University Agriculture Schools have a variety of departments: Soils-Agronomy (The care and maintenance of dirt) Animal Husbandry a name appropriate The young student learns the larger of the critters Horses, Cows, can if not treated well and gentled, can kill you. They are very large and amazingly powerful. Their voices rise together for a variety of reasons: “Feed Me Damnit. I am hungry out of hay and my drinking fountain is dry – or overflowing and drowning my lunch;”

    It is springtime and I am very Hungry. I need a Snack.

    I have a 105# critter in my uterus and it is kicking.”

    My hooves are cold.”

    “I had this calf and miss it a lot.” Or

    I dropped this calf 3 months ago and am in “heat” (peak of my fertility for non-farmers) horny sounds corny and crude.

    Probably shouldn’t hear a religious note to their Mooooo.

    Save they are among nature’s more magnificent creations. Ours were named. Very big slow Barkleys and Jesses. Just don’t piss them off.

    End of bovine devotional. Best,


    James B Haugh

    On Mon, May 7, 2018, 12:52 PM Views from the Edge wrote:

    > Gordon C. Stewart posted: “It’s quiet this morning just after dawn. I > ponder the line “Happy are they who know the festal shout!” [Psalm > 19:15]. A sound I’ve never heard here interrupts the bird calls and my > daily reading. The single lo” >

    Liked by 1 person

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