Patch of Green

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Written by Jane during her time at Kibbutz Kfar Giladi, circa 1982.

A distant patch of green flaunts its greenness. In the early, early morning hours the air is fresh, newborn and still. The sky a haze of waking light and that distant patch of green shines out from all the rest as if a square of sky had opened and projected “Ideal Green of Green” on that privileged piece of hill.

The cows, sensing my approach, slowly raise their bulks and lumber over to the gates. It is 5AM Shabbat, and its my once-a-month turn to milk the cows. Three of us woke before dawn – the night guards off duty – the only lights around come from the dairy building.

Two more times I’ll leave the steamy dairy carousel to reroute the cows; each group to its enclosure. Careful to open & close the correct gates in the correct sequence.

But the patch of green has dulled by then. By the third time out, the green is indistinguishable from other greens–the full light of undeniable morning reigns; that square of sky has shut and I’ll wait another month to see that secret marvel of nature again.

In the carousel, the busy noises of activity fill the room: rhythmic whooshes of suction; the clatter of metal parts moving, dropping, and banging; clumping hooves of cows adjusting themselves; swooshes of grain falling into the meal buckets; the whistle of an improperly-placed suction cup; shouts of “Hutza!” to a cow that is reluctant to leave the carousel.

All these noises – each with its own rhythm – indeed, a veritable symphony.

One turn around the carousel and the cows have delivered 8 to 30 liters of heavy milk, the kibbutz fills its tanks and coffers, and the milk cooperative, TNUVA, enriches the country with all its milk products.

Meanwhile the cows go round, I fit the suction cups on the endless variety of teats – parry the kicking legs, and avoid the waterfalls of urine and the huge splashes of shit. I think its call dung only when its dry. Oh, what a long way from Manhattan I am!

The job done, I make my way uphill to the dining hall. I’m not tired anymore. I’m on a high, even slightly hyper. I feel elated, cleansed, and strong. I’ve participated in a great experiment: The Kibbutz. At no other time do I feel so freely that sense of belonging and contribution.