by Sande Nosonowitz, MVLCE
posted Jan 19, 2021
While I transitioned veganism as an older adult, I view becoming vegan as a midpoint. OBLIVIOUS: A Vegan Memoir took form as I felt I had to document this, drawn to poet Della Hicks-Wilson’s words, “Let the truth exist somewhere other than inside your body.”
This excerpt is from the middle of my journey.
When the suffering of another causes you to feel pain, do not submit to the initial desire to flee from the suffering, but on the contrary, come closer, as close as you can, and try to help.— Leo Tolstoy, A Calendar of Wisdom
Country roads exude the sense of peace and calm of a bygone era we’ll probably never get back again. The roads near my home make me feel that way often. One in particular is called Freedom Road. It has a sharp curve, with a diamond-shaped black and white sign reading 10 miles per hour for a reason. If you don’t slow down at that curve, you’re likely to careen into the corn field or even an oncoming car.
When I’d turn the bend at my compliant ten miles an hour, I’d always notice the tall silver silo of the dairy farm coming up on the left. I was mesmerized by the endless green fields, the big, red barn with peeling white shutters, and the rolling fences that framed the entire bucolic scene.
Just a few yards away from the road in front of the barn stood three metal and wooden crates, larger than dog crates, but not much. I’d never really noticed them before, but driving by this particular day, I saw three calves, each in their own crate, right on the side of the road. I could tell they were babies. Two were light brown and speckled; the other was all dark. I slowed down my car as if being drawn by a magnet. I drove off the road, onto the dirt, and into the farm.
This would not have happened years ago. I would have driven right by this farm with visions of sweet cows grazing in the pasture and I would have thought those babies were just so cute. It would have never occurred to me that these animals might be suffering or that I had any ability to help them. But the shadowed obscurity of truth was in my rearview mirror. I was seeing this for what it was. And it wasn’t adorable at all. I had reached another plateau in my paradigm shift–the one that would propel me to action.
I approached the dark calf and began to swat the flies away from her warm body. It was a hot summer day and there was no water or food in the crate. She was tethered to it with a coarse rope tied tightly around her neck, as were the other two calves. The ropes forbade them to move more than a few feet in any direction. The ropes were tangled and weaved from their necks and under their legs, making any movement difficult. This calf was filthy and panting and clearly terrified. My heart was racing and breaking at the same time.
I got a bottle of water from my car and poured some into my cupped hands for her to drink. She took it, but I believe she was hoping it was her mother’s milk, milk she’d never get to taste. I went from one calf to another, trying to bring some pittance of affection, some water and a distraction from a pathetic and purposeless existence. These were babies crying for their mothers — mothers who were inside that big red barn, crying for their newborns, as the milk meant for them was pumped through metal contraptions hooked up to their udders, into a giant vat in another room in the barn.
I stayed for an hour. The sun was going down. Before I left, the dark calf looked at me intensely. It was a look that can only be felt, and not described, not even in the most eloquent of prose. She looked into me and through me and touched a part of me that I had yet to discover. I went home with warm tears running down my face. I dropped to the floor, hugged my dog Henry tightly, and cried some more. I slept, and dreamt of going back to that farm in the middle of the night, cutting those tight ropes, taking those calves, and never looking back.
To be continued…
Sande Nosonowitz is a master-certified Main Street vegan coach, writer and educator. For three years, she penned the “Living & Being Vegan” column for Living & Being Magazine (part of the USA TODAY network) , and has recently published her latest book, OBLIVIOUS: A Vegan Memoir. This comes after her first compilation book, Living & Being Vegan: How Veganism Heals Your Body, Mind and Spirit.
Her multi-media presentations, How Veganism Heals and Plant-Based at Any Age, have been at venues such as The Mid-Hudson Regional Hospital, Dutchess Community College, The Omega Institute Staff Program, The DrawDown National Environmental Program, The Fountains at Millbrook Community Education Series and The Vassar College Lifelong Learning Institute.
She’s a proud co-founder of the Hudson Valley Vegfest held annually in New York State. Sande is also a certified yoga & online meditation instructor, teaching ahimsa-based practices.
Her company Sundara Vegan offers vegan coaching, education, online meditations and creative endeavors geared towards promoting vegan life. The word Sundara is drawn from the Sanskrit word meaning beautiful, interpreted as inner beauty flowing from grace & wisdom.