Like most, I have had important teachers in my life who have inspired and guided me, yet the most profound teacher I have ever had lies buried at the entrance of Edgar’s Mission. A landrace, large white pig I came to love and adore, and whom I named Edgar Alan Pig. Now he lies interned beneath a carved wooden sculpture of a pig with wings, with a rooster dutifully standing on his back, a stoic reminder to all who pass through our front gates of why we exist.
Until the time Edgar trotted into my life all I had ever wanted to do was ride horses, and while it took some time convincing my parents to even allow me anywhere near a horse, it was something I was able to do with what many would call great success. However, amongst the trophies and accolades I always felt there was something missing. It took a little piglet with an incredibly big heart to show me just what that was.
Moreover, from my animal friends I have learned of their rich emotional worlds. From Edgar I learned that pigs could be chivalrous, just as he showed the day he came racing out of his straw bed (and there were very few things in life that could get him to do that) when he heard Pompy Pig doing her “someone’s killing me” routine as I gently tried to remove something that had become stuck on her. Although Edgar was not particularly fond of any other pigs, much preferring to keep to his own counsel, the thought that someone was harming one of his kind caused him to come charging my way with grunts that demanded I unhand that pig or far worse would inflicted upon me, and there was no doubt in my mind he would make good on his threat. Once Pompy’s trotters hit terra firma she stopped squealing and pompously marched off, Edgar standing stock still, his snout raised slightly with the satisfaction only a pig can muster. With his message heard and calm restored, he retreated gallantly back to bed.
Tigga the rooster taught me that roosters can show embarrassment, you know that “oops, my bad” moment we all dread? One day he was in the barn and heard my footsteps (although at that stage he did not realise they were mine) coming down the path outside, hidden from his view. Deciding it was an unsuspecting volunteer heading his way, and he loved taunting volunteers, Tigga raced out of the barn and leapt into the air feet first and parallel to the ground, flapping madly all the while, in a manoeuver that would make Jackie Chan proud. Only to catch himself in the act as he realised “oops, wrong human”.
Quickly retracting his feet, he landed and immediately commenced bobbing up and down and pecking at the ground, a sideward glance my way as if to awkwardly say “ah, just pecking bugs, honest”. What I had just witnessed was recognition and rationalisation. Tigga recognised me, not as one of the many unsuspecting humans he could intimidate and harass, but as someone to be respected and one he never wished to cause harm. He rationalised the best way out was to pretend he was simply catching bugs and show he posed no threat to me.
Their uncanny ability to live in the moment will cause you to believe they truly are zen masters. Despite their massive size they are such a peaceable lot, kind, gentle, forgiving and accepting. One of my greatest pleasures is to spend time just sitting with our cows, watching their inner peace with the world calms the soul and reminds one that the simple things in life truly are the best.
These and countless other experiences have ushered me into the inner world of farmed animals and taught me the most important teachers in our lives are not those who can teach us to read or write, but those who can connect us with our hearts.