Back to my friends. Along with their nine children, Dino and Cathy have “dominion”— respectful stewardship—over four cows, four goats, 54 chickens, a few dozen cats, three pigs, and one perfect little beagle, not to mention 20 acres of woods and fields with lots of buzzing bees and chirping birds. Dino and Cathy preside over their small farm, respecting the natural rhythms and needs of all God’s creatures. Among the many books on their shelves, James Herriot’s volumes are favorites. I love to spend a few days in such a community of beasts and men. I can hear the children’s sounds throughout the house and in the fields by day, at times laughing, or yelling, or talking, or crying. From the newborn infant to the 14-year-old elder sister, the children apply themselves to building real community from sunup to sundown. I can hear the gentle voices of mother and father, and the excited prattling of grandmother bouncing a baby on her knees. I hear the cows’ lowing, the goats’ eager bleating, the clucking of chickens, the mewing of kittens, the wind in the willows, the gurgling of a stream, and I hear tweets—not artificial tweets from a little machine but twitters from real birds.
Folks seem under some nameless fear these days. The media plays on this, of course, by bothering us about some alleged disaster every morning. I don’t remember this vague, pervasive anxiety when I was growing up. And, spending a few days with my friends in rural Missouri, I didn’t sense it among them. The folks that preach disaster and spread fear, I suppose, live in New York and Los Angeles. I suspect they unthinkingly try to control, rather than cultivate, their environment. Might I suggest to those folks who feel trapped in urban fears—make a little summer visit to your country cousins. Get back in touch with the land, and the big family, and the God who presides over all creatures, great and small.