When the Europeans came to the continent (by “the continent” I mean North America), they brought with them everything they could conceive of needing, including sources of food, because they were leaving everything behind and needed to be assured they would have what they needed to survive. And who could blame them?
I’m fairly certain there’s been a box of canned goods that I have moved at least 4 or 5 times with bits that have been expired for a decade or so and another box of equally expired dry goods including spices because we always seem to think wherever we are moving to will NOT have food to fill our bellies… apparently. I personally eat fresh food so I only keep such things in cupboards in case of hurricanes or blizzards or the zombie apocalypse so I can eat food that makes me sick for a week before I have my brains eaten which results in rather a feeling that it is pointless to replace it.
Friends who are from or who have lived in other countries shop where they can buy those foodstuffs they love from those places and if they can’t find them locally they have friends send care packages. Among my favorite teas is a Scottish breakfast with heather flowers from Edinburgh, Scotland.
We like the food we like.
We bring it to us if we cannot bring it with us.
Regardless of whether there were native species that were similar here already, those European settlers brought what they knew too, among them cattle and horses. When the cattle were brought to the Great Plains, they flourished on the ample tall grass and the wide spaces to roam. No trees, roads, fences, or towns to get in the way, just wide open spaces. The other species that was similar in kind to the European cattle was the American Bison, the buffalo.
Two hundred years ago, massive herds of buffalo roamed the plains. The stories go that when the railroad was new, before the US government actively worked to exterminate the bison, a single herd of bison crossing the tracks could take days and could therefore slow the train down significantly so having some cattle also in the plains was not a threat to the population of bison as far as resources were concerned.
If you’ve never seen the Great Plains, you may not realize that even now one can be somewhere in the middle of a place and can see nothing to the horizon but rolling hills of grasses or crops. It is still hundreds of miles of naught. As a child on the eastern slope of the Rockies in Colorado, we were at the base of the Rocky Mountains to the west and the plains to the east. In the spring and summer, we would sit on our bikes or on the roof of someone’s house looking east and watching thunderheads move across the plains toward one another and watching them collide, predicting where the funnel clouds would start to swoop toward the earth, and seeing large storms merge into monster storms. It was amazing. I remember being on my grandfather’s farm (whose lower fields were rented by neighboring farmers from horse and cattle grazing while the upper fields were for his crop – bird’s foot trefoil) and seeing the animals behavior change long before we would realize storms were going to come close because the horses would all start to prance and run even just as the wind would pick up and the cows would all gather close together in the space farthest from the direction the storm would eventually come.
It’s their natural instinct for both species to avoid the storm; it’s been that way forever.
What would happen before the land had fences and divisions was that the herds of cattle would sense the shift in pressure and feel the electricity in the air as those same huge storms I’d watch as a child. These creatures were used to cramped and crowded space where there would be somewhere to shelter. they would go mad trying to avoid the storm. They’d go mad trying to find shelter and they would run until they died, run off cliffs, run into steep sided gullets they could not get out of that would then flood, or huddle so close together they were trampling their own just to avoid the coming storm! If they managed to survive the storm, they invariably spent much longer in it than was necessary because rather than running through it, they ran with it.
But not the buffalo.
The buffalo, upon sensing the change, would turn immediately toward the storm and run at full speed into it, not stopping until they had run through it to the sunshine on the other side. Instinct taught them that running into and through the storm, rather than avoiding it, would bring them through it more quickly.
We can all learn something from the buffalo, I think.
I know that we are never tested beyond the standing of our faith, but that doesn’t make struggle or trial any less challenging. We all come to places at times where we are tested and tried. I try to keep myself positive but at times I find myself questioning my own resolve and strength to make it through all this.
But even when things are difficult, I can choose to face my storms or choose to run from them.
For my part, I choose to be the buffalo.
Originally published 5 March 2019