My DH is a good man. I knew that very soon after I first met him almost 40 years ago. What it took me awhile to discover is, he’s not very good at remembering important dates. Ocassionally, that bugs me a little bit. Uusally not, though. And I can get a good laugh out of it, too.
On Monday, September 11, I decided to wait to see how long it would be before my husband remembered it was my birthday. Around 1:00 pm, I posted something to that effect on Facebook. He didn’t see it.
By 7:30 pm, I couldn’t bear it any longer. I told him I was going to the grocery store to get a cake. (Which, btw, I never do, because, you know, I’d eat it all.)
When I arrived home, he came outside to help with the groceries. He was stunned to find only a frosted carrot cake. He looked at me, and I said, “I SAID I was going to get a cake. For my birthday.” A panicky look crosses his face. As I walk into the house, he follows me, saying, “But TODAY’S not your birthday! Is it?? It’s not! Is it??”
True-to-form. And me, too, because I ate almost all of the cake in five days. (In my defense, it was a single layer.) (The frosting!!!!)
On September 12, 1940, four teenaged boys in near the small village of Montignac, in the Dordogne region of France, discovered the cave of Lascaux.
On Tuesday, September 12, we knocked off early from the day and drove out to Bodega Head, our favorite cliff site overlooking the Pacific Ocean. We passed a lot of cattle in the grassy rolling hills on the way. Jon asked how I could tell beef cattle from dairy cows. I said I am no expert, I just know the most popular breeds and their purpose: Black-and-white Holsteins, with the occasional fawn-colored Jersey and Guernseys, vs. Black Angus and white-faced Herefords.
My husband asked if cows were ever tri-colored, as in white/black/brown, like calico cats. I said I’d never heard of that. I couldn’t think of a reason why that wouldn’t be so, so I said I’d look it up. I mentioned how surprised I was to see grey cattle on our trip to England more than 30 years ago. (We’d gone to Paris to visit good friends, then gone on to England to visit more friends there.) Jon doesn’t remember noticing the cattle. I did, because I’ve seen a lot of cows in my life, and those grey cows were different. The warm color of pewter.
On our next trip to France, two weeks after 9/11/2001, we visited Lascaux II, the beautiful reproductionn of one of the main cave galleries of Lascaux. I saw the aurochs, and the horses, those beautiful running horses that are the heart-center of everything I do. Jon was worried “second-best” would be disappointing. I kissed him and said it was enough.
After making art for more than two decades inspired by that cave, I realized just a couple months ago that “aurochs”, the name of those prehistoric cattle depicted on the cave walls, sounds an awful lot like our modern word: “ox”. I wondered if they were connected. But I kept forgetting to search for that.
Tonight, I was on my way to bed when, for some reason, I can’t remember why, I remembered I wanted to look up tri-colored cattle breeds.
So I did. One of the images was of a breed that resembled the auroch images in the cave of Lascaux.
Which reminded me that I still hadn’t looked up “aurochs” and “ox”. I did. Bingo! They are related! In fact, the word “aurochs” is the name of a species of European wild cattle (Bos ursus) that went extinct early in the 17th century.
In the process, I realized that what I’ve thought most of life were Guernsey cows are actually probably Brown Swiss cows (also milk producers). Or maybe even Charolais, which are not (which is embarrasing. Because that would mean I only use color as a determinant. )
And those “ancient-looking tri-colored cattle”? They might be Normande cows, introduced to Normandy, France in the 9th and 10th centuries by…Vikings!
Prehistoric aurochs, wild aurochs that disappeared in the 1600’s, aurochs-looking cattle brought to France by Vikings….
The mind boggles.
And of course, it was on my 49th birthday, September 11, 2001, that I wrote the story about my artwork that still means so much to me today.
What is old is new again, a meme for my own artwork and my own interpretation of this famous cave. Which makes this this project to restore those same ancient aurochs so compelling.
And because of all this, I want to share with you my favorite (and now ironic) quote from the 1996 movie Twister:
Jo: [cow flies by in the storm while in Bill’s truck] Cow.
[cow flies by in the storm]
Jo: another cow.
Bill: Actually I think that was the same one.