The serenity-tape industry has the right idea, it just hasn't fully developed it yet. It has marketed birdsong, breaking waves, babbling brooks, even distant thunder. I keep wondering, though, when it will discover the acoustical potential of cows - specifically, of cows rhythmically chowing down a good bale of hay.
Sitting and listening for 10 minutes to my cows feeding leaves me cool, calm, and collected, whatever mood I walk into the barn wearing. It struck me one winter morning as I leaned against the racks, entranced by the row of warm muzzles moving, by the steady, soft rustling and munching, that I enjoy a pretty high-energy, low-stress life - and that I probably have my animals to thank for that.
Sometimes, before a summer morning's milking, I walk to the barn with my bowl of cornflakes and granola for a power breakfast with our dairy herd. I take a seat on a hay bale, and as we all peaceably dine, I try to imagine sharing a moment like this with the world at large. There is no real way, unless - closing my eyes, it comes to me - a recording could be made. The barn is close by the road, and I lift my spoon to acknowledge honks from passing friends and commuters driving into town.
Maybe some of them would slow down if there were cows breakfasting on their tape decks. There is a sweet, steady pulse to bovine mastication, not a little like a heartbeat, and not a bit compatible with speed. Given a deft edit, the occasional gustatory transgression could be glossed over, perhaps by enhancing the chirps of the barn swallows or the bleating of the calves. I'm no acoustical technician; these are just suggestions for the entrepreneurial genius who (with my blessing) may one day develop the concept of soul-soothing sounds from the barn.
But who am I kidding? Not everyone feels about cows as I do, and birdsong is a hard act to follow. But the idea won't go away, perhaps because there's a kernel of potential here. Any way you look at it, the cows won't care - no more than the waves or the brooks or the birds ever will. Maybe that's the key to their quieting claim on us.
(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society