My in-laws live out in the country, in the hill-country known as la Drome des Collines, on a little parcel of land nestled on one side by forest, truffle oaks (not theirs!) on another, farm and pastureland on all others.
I have been visiting their house since 1997, when I met my indulgent husband, so I have been coming here for well more than half my life. It also happens to be the place my little scalawags love more than any other place on earth.
Turn to the left out of the house and there is a sandy-dirt path among some fields to which they take their sand toys and play all morning (if they don’t stay upstairs playing Playmobil with the near museum-quality remnants of my husband and BIL’s childhood Playmobil collection.) At the end of the dirt path there is a friendly donkey who hee-haws when he sees the boys.
Turn to the right, up the hill, and there are all the animal farms. First, a huge swath of cow pasture, with a view on the Vercors (Alps). The poney pasture. The house with the chickens in the front yard. A bit further there is a goat farm.
None of these farms are industrial farms. They are all pleasant little mom-and-pop farms. The animals, no matter what their final destination is meant to be, are by all measures, living their best lives.
Just to left after the cows, up another hill, past an abandoned stone house, is a pig farm.
You smell the pigs before you see them. The eldest scalawag loves to make a show of waving his hand in front of his face and saying, “Wow. Smells like a pig’s been here!”
The pig sty is a pleasantly shaded place, and next after smelling the pigs, before you can see them through the trees, you can hear them.
There is the easily recognizable snorting (oh my goodness. Do they snort.) But then, there is a far less easily recognizable sound of muck walking.
Getting closer to their enclosure, you see two generations of pigs, including one gigantic male and six tiny little piglets and several females. They are all up to their knees in rich, smooshy, noisy mud.
I was mesmerized by this muck the last time we visited. Mesmerized by how deep it was. How unbothered by it the pigs were as they scrambled over one another for the handfuls of grass my boys threw over the fence to them.
I was mesmerized by exactly what it means to wallow in the mud. I thought about that verse that says “do not throw pearls before swine”, which, heretofore I had imagined happening on a dry, dusty farm like the one in Kansas that Dorothy lived on with Toto.
I had always wondered about that verse. I mean, who would wear a pearl necklace among pigs, anyways? And then, if, by chance, they did, and somehow the necklace broke, right there, in front of the pigs, well, the pieces could picked up and restrung. No harm, no foul.
But not here. If, by chance a pearl necklace broke in this mud, it would be lost for good. This knee-high-to-a-pig mud would suck those pearls up so fast… and they would be lost. Even less would someone intentionally “cast their pearls before swine.”
The noise of the pigs walking in the mud was so unthinkably disgusting. That juicy, wet, sucking sound with every step. And because they were getting a little treat, they were mucking around quite a bit.
I got to wondering…if all of my invisible faults, my thoughts, the states of my heart, were perhaps not visible, but could simply be heard: the muck that fills my mind most of the time, the suffocating mud in which my thoughts wallow making those wet, gross sucking sounds…how much more likely would I be to clean up my act.
I got to wondering, since, theoretically God knows all my thoughts*, if, when he looks at me, he gets grossed out by the sound of my thoughts. If he sees me like one of the pigs, knee-deep in muck and sometimes has trouble seeing me differently than that.
I don’t want to be like that. And yet it is so much easier to obey my nature, to obey my hormones, to obey my thoughts, than it is to get to drier, less disgustingly mucky ground.
I wallow. I want to stop wallowing.
This silly thought, “I want to stop wallowing” didn’t come out of nowhere. I spend a good part of my time cogitating, regurgitating my cogitation, and recogitating. I know the depths of the muck in my brain. I know the cyclical pattern of wallowing.
This silly little thought came with all the moral authority of the voice that told me You should stop throwing money at your self worth problems. You can be sure that if that is true, I will be finding a way to turn it into a project.
*One of my summer projects was to take concrete steps to prove to myself that no one was paying as much attention to me as I thought they were. This has been a successful endeavor in many ways. The one thing I cannot shake is the thought that God is always paying attention.