Cows are really weird animals, and I’m not even talking about the whole having-six-stomachs thing.
My kids are into nature shows, and half the fun of watching a nature show is telling your mom every single thing you learned over the course of that nature show. Sometimes the telling takes longer than the actual watching, that’s how exciting it is.
Most days are too hectic for me to pause and hear all the things.
When I can, though, I try to sit still and listen, because I think parenting is mostly about listening, and because stillness is good for my soul.
(Usually soul stillness does not involve discussion of raptor birds, but occasionally it does.)
“Tell me something weird that an animal does,” I said during one of these discussions.
The children started at me as though I did not understand what “animal” meant.
“A weird instinctive behavior. There’s got to be something,” I said.
“Um,” they said, not convinced. They described animals hunting for food. They described animals protecting the young. None of these things is exactly weird.
I whipped out my phone and Googled “weird instinctive animal behaviors,” because shared Googling is another way I do family bonding.
That is how we learned about the cows.
We learned that when they eat, cows — all the cows everywhere, all the time, all over the earth — they face magnetic north. They line up in fields like giant tally marks.
I do not know why they face magnetic north. No one knows why they face magnetic north. I don’t suspect the cows even know what magnetic north is. Weird, right?
You know what’s awesome, though? You are not the cow! I am also not the cow. None of us are cows.
Cows are born, they line up in one direction, they eat that way their whole lives. The last generation of cows did exactly that and the next generation of cows will, too.
But you and I, we can change things.
The cows will never wonder. They will never turn to each other and say, Hey, Sukey? Why are we all facing this way? Is it because we don’t have sunglasses?
But we get to question. We get to wonder why. We get to ask out loud.
Why do we do things this way?
Why is this necessary? Why is this best?
You have a choice. (Not asking the questions is another kind of choice.)
When you decide to orient yourself in a different direction, when you turn toward a different true north, when you follow your own compass and bask in a different light, the rest of the herd might think you’re a little off. They might think you’re the weird one.
That weird vs. normal category isn’t super useful, anyway.
Instead of weird, call it intentional. Call it purposeful. Call it free.
Choose that, and walk in your own direction.