The border guards are the cows. They are stoic, standing with their minds geared-down, like security staff of an unvisited museum. But they can have curiosity too. More than once I am awoken at dawn by a herd pressed in around my tent. They rub their spluttery lips against the sides, great snorts and nostril blasts blowing convex shapes into the material. Once, just before waking, I dream I am in bed with a cow.
Lydia Davis wrote an entire, although very short, book about three cows that lived in a field near her home. It is a wonderful study, coming at her neighbours from multiple angles until, somewhere between the paragraphs, the essence of cattle is expressed; the cowishness of cows. This seems to be best observed by looking at them in herds, individual cows just seem incomplete. They are a group form of life, a lone cow is an irrelevance, like a single ant. Davis notes this essence too, hovering between the individual and the group, but breaks up the trio near her house into constitute parts with the application of time and a steady gaze. “They are nearly the same size, and yet one is the largest, one the middle-sized, and one the smallest.”
Walking the border, ever onwards, I never encounter the same cows twice, yet every cow is essentially the same cow. It seems better to think of them as hills or gates or clouds, replicated to one pattern. Endless but predictable, the border’s bovine furniture.