First, Let Us Reflect

newborn calf’s body
lay frozen near a blue barn
snow drifts over it
in harsh for-profit systems
no one mourns commodities

As I travel from farm to farm, sometimes I see things that I cannot unsee. Sometimes these things stick to me like bad peanut butter on white bread on the roof of my mouth. Eventually, I can choke it down. Most of them I do not share with people, but this one really struck me.

Being a trucker means that I am intimately interwoven into the food supply system of our society. I have hauled produce from processor to warehouse. I’ve hauled finished product from factory to warehouse. I’ve hauled from warehouse to grocery store. Now, I find myself at the root, hauling directly from a farm that produces cattle feed to dairy farms. Because of people that do the job that I do, you have milk, cheese, yogurt, and that glorious top-of-the-food-pyramid item, cheesecake.

In Zen monasteries across this planet, meals are begun with a chant, the first line of which is, “First, let us reflect on our own work and the efforts of those that brought us this food.” When I attended extended retreats known as Sesshin, my concept of “those who brought us this food” was limited to the kitchen staff. Now, it includes migrant workers, farm hands, warehouse grunts and truckers. It includes those folks who are in your way at the grocery store that are stocking the shelves. One can draw this line ad infinitum. All of them deserve our thanks.

This calf that I saw, frozen to the ground, gave the ultimate effort to provide us this food, and I am grateful for her existence regardless of the briefness of her life.

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