New world

Love yourself first and everything else falls into line. – Lucille Ball

Vaca deportista (6 May 2020)

Willoughby Street stretches for a little over a half mile from Willoughby Plaza in downtown Brooklyn to St. Edwards Street on the west side of Fort Greene Park in Fort Greene. Compared to Myrtle and Dekalb Avenues, which flank it to the north and south respectively, Willoughby is a relatively quiet street. In May of 2020, barely two months into confinement, it is deathly quiet. With hardly a car in sight, a person can walk down the middle of it if she wants. Which I do. Luckily, because it’s in the middle of the street where I encounter the vaca deportista.  

This athletic cow is playing tennis. Her upper body is wide open, her arms up in the air in joyous abandon. She is smiling; her face is tremendously bright. There is so much to be happy about, there is so much room for magic and play and creation. Given the state of the world we were living in at the time, this message alone was inspiring enough. It was certainly the most urgent. It was not, however, the only thing this cow had to say.

Water stain for Vaca deportista (Willoughby Street, Brooklyn)

Take, for example, the fact that she is running. This is normal enough; she is playing tennis, after all. In art and dreams, however, things aren’t always what they seem. In this case, the running cow is not really a running cow, but rather a reminder to the person who sees it to pay attention to the imbalance she might be experiencing in her professional and personal lives.

It’s true that for years I had allowed my professional life not only to seep into my personal one, but to completely take it over. In this way, I had neglected both my interests and artistic endeavors, much to the detriment of my emotional well-being. When, exactly, did I walk into the head of school’s office to negotiate a contract at three-quarter time for the following school year? The day after seeing the cow? Or maybe a week after? No matter, I did it, and the move was crucial. Running or not, a cow announces to the person who sees it that she is either currently or about to experience a profoundly transformative period in her life. What better way to ensure the success of such a period than to give it lots of time?

As for what I was going to learn during this transformative period of my life, it’s in the type of cow that we find the answer. Vaca deportista is a Holstein, a dairy cow. You have in your possession every tool necessary to sustain yourself, the dairy cow says. And she was right. No sooner had my husband announced his desire to separate a year and a half before than I started dating, desperately, as if a man was what I needed. I didn’t need a man. I could pay my own bills and fix the broken whatever and drive the thing that needed to be driven. I was strong, intelligent, and resourceful; I could take care of myself. Divorce was not the end of the world. Far from it. It was just a door into a new one. This new world would only be as beautiful and peaceful as the time I spent getting to know and love myself. I wanted a man in my life. An affectionate and attentive one; loving and generous of heart; hairy like they don’t make them anymore, with magic hands and a voice like caramel. He was out there in the world. The new one. For him to be visible to me in it, I had to first be everything I needed; I had to first be someone I loved.

“Spirit Animal Totems and the Messages They Bring You” (

“Cow Symbolism & The Spiritual Meaning of Seeing Cows” (

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