When I would spend time on my grandparent’s farm as a kid, the coolest news we could possibly receive was the arrival of a new baby animal. I always thought little calves were the cutest as they looked so incredibly small compared to their gigantic mothers. Of course, by the next trip the baby had disappeared and was replaced with a larger version. At least, that’s what it seemed like to us kids as my grandmother would point to the cow in question. We just looked at one another quizzically, convinced our grandmother had gone completely batty. She explained that the little calf had grown up since our last visit. Our last visit had only been a few months ago, so we were suspicious. If that were possible, we would have already been driving in cars by now. But, we still missed that little calf, just as we would have missed our own childhood had it zoomed forward at a such a pace. Though I’m quite sure there were times our patient mothers felt differently. Our own lives seemed to be moving so slowly back then and we couldn’t wait for the day when we would each grow up as well.
Today, I feel like life is definitely moving at a cow’s pace. Each day feels like it’s zooming along and I look back and wonder where all the time went. So much has changed that I can barely keep up with everything. Perhaps that’s why I like to take little trips back to my past. I remember that slowness and can reconnect with it just a bit. As my mind traveled back this evening, I remembered my mother saying, “how now, brown cow?” as a form of greeting. I had no idea at the time where she’d picked up such a phrase, but it was apparently one used in teaching diction. It’s similar to the “rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain” from My Fair Lady, though far shorter and more ridiculous. And it later became a fun way to greet people. The cow phrase, thankfully not the rain in Spain bit. I thought it was fun, even though she was technically referring to me as a cow. But, since I thought cows were rather cute, that felt like a compliment. Greetings like these date back to the time of William Shakespeare, which would have been something more like “how say you now?” These more descriptive phrases, of course, have in modern times been artlessly reduced to “s’up?”
It never occurred to me at the time, but that greeting my mother had used was rather revolutionary. By using it, she wasn’t simply asking what I had been doing, she was asking what I would immediately be doing next. So, my response was always a description of what I was thinking about doing and sometimes even a silly thing that just came to mind. I’ve no idea if she was doing it on purpose, but she taught me to always imagine more than just the moment I had just lived. Though that moment might have seemed perfectly mundane, what fun thing did I have planned to immediately take place next? I grew up always knowing that there was something more interesting waiting for me around the corner, and that’s fueled me through my entire life. Sure, some days are not particularly interesting, but there’s always a next one. And unlike the calf who zooms into adulthood, we have a bit more time to riddle it all out. Our own mothers and fathers have whispered amazing things into our ears and given us gifts of knowledge that we didn’t even realize we’d received at the time. A simple phrase, a casual instruction, and a gentle push in a particular direction. And, I adore the gift my mother gave me in that silly phrase, subtlety asking me to focus on the near future with just a simple, “how now, brown cow?”
About the Doodlewash
Da Vinci Paint Co.: Yellow Ochre, Opus (Vivid Pink), Leaf Green, Terra Cotta, and Cobalt Blue. (my “Vintage” Trio!). Lamy Al-Star Safari Fountain Pen with sepia ink in an A5 Hahnemühle Watercolour Book. Want to purchase a print of this doodlewash? Click Here!
Creator of Doodlewash®, founder of World Watercolor Month (July), World Watercolor Group™, and host of the Sketching Stuff Podcast. Sharing daily watercolor illustrations and stories while proudly featuring talented artists from all over the world! If you’d like to be a guest artist on Doodlewash.com, contact me!