Some people talk to animals. Not many listen though. That’s the problem.”
― A.A. Milne
“Once again…welcome to my house. Come freely. Go safely; and leave something of the happiness you bring.”
― Bram Stoker
“You know, sometimes the world seems like a pretty mean place.’
‘That’s why animals are so soft and huggy.”
― Bill Watterson
(images of a little wild rabbit / Julie Cook / 2014)
Imagine my surprise this morning when I noticed both cats poised, like dogs pointing out the prey, deadly still with heads careening out as far as little necks would allow through the posts on the deck, looking intently down to the bank below. “What on earth do they see” I wonder as I edge my way to the railing for a good look.
Quickly, and almost invisible to discernment, there is rapid movement against a sea of pine straw as I suddenly focus on the object of their attention.
A small brown rabbit, a PeterCotton Tail to be exact.
“Oh welcome my little guest” as I feel my heart rise up within me. Yet the obvious thought, the most logical thought, by any Gardner or farmer would not be too welcoming having a wee rabbit to come calling. And what am I thinking. . .as my garden is no more than 100 feet away—wide open, bare and exposed. . .full of delectable tender green vegetables to be.
This, as I recall the charge of St. Benedict on hospitality–that we are to make all those who come to our home, welcome. I somehow think St Benedict would kindly consider this lowly little rabbit a most welcomed guest of honor.
Yet there is truly something about rabbits which has always captured my heart.
Maybe it’s their big soulful saucer sized eyes. . .
Perhaps it was the pet rabbit we had when our son was a little boy. BunBun.
BunBun was a beautiful black and white lop eared rabbit with a tender gentle disposition. He, she, it, was more like a big flop doll, quite happy wearing a harness and leash as we would enjoy taking him out of his cage, playing with him in the grass.
My husband had had a beautiful rabbit hutch built for our new family addition–large, spacious and secure. . .or so we had thought.
One tragic afternoon, before my son and I had returned home from a long day of teaching for me and day care for him– my husband who had came home prior to our arrival was witness to a horrible sight. A pack of dogs, not even wild dogs but a pack of roaming neighborhood dogs, attacking the cage and rabbit. They must have worked on it for some time as the cage itself was sound and quite sturdy.
My husband came upon the tail end of the carnage, chasing away the dogs and burying BunBun before my son and I got home. He called one of the dog owners explaining what had happened and that he had a great concern as our son often played outside and if this pack of dogs were so aggressive over a small caged animal what might they do to our toddler son. The owners response was most odd–“the next time you see my dogs, just shoot them.”
There’s certainly another post in there somewhere but today I want to remain more upbeat and enjoy my little surprise guest.
I don’t know what it is about rabbits—partly yes to those soulful eyes of theirs, plus their soft cuddly-like bodies, their luxurious coats–ode to the angora—or perhaps their gentle peaceful nature. I remember asking our vet it I’d need to have the rabbit vaccinated for rabies. He jokingly replied “you’d first have to have a brain to get rabies”—I took that as a no.
When I wrote my tale a couple of months back about my childhood companion, my stuffed Cubby bear,”Once you are REAL, you can’t be ugly” or The life of the little stuffed bear” I had had the story of the Velveteen Rabbit in mind. The delightfully heart tugging tale of the stuffed animal that was loved so very much that it became terribly worn and yet very much Real.
Maybe rabbits are a bit like us. They tend to be communal creatures at times, living in groups known as warrens. They certainly mate and have children. . .and children, and children, and more children—ooo digressing
They eat their vegetables.
Yet they are not up there on the ol food chain by any stretch of the imagination.
As I sat watching my little visitor hopping about our yard, I worried over his vulnerability.
Our yard, as I’ve noted before, is more like a 5 acre pasture that just happens to have a house on it. A few oak trees but mostly wide open grassland. Not the best spot for an unsuspecting rabbit who may not know of the danger from the overhead hawks. And then there is the 6 acres of overgrown field which backs up to our property, then the vast woods beyond that—all fertile ground for predators–coyotes abound in our area as do bobcats, fox, snakes, and of course an occasional roaming dog or cat.
But it was another rabbit story which came to mind as I watched my little friend scoot about our yard.
Watership Down is story that was written in the early 1970’s by English author Richard Adams.
The tale is of a group of rabbits, living together in a warren–their community.
They have a language, a “religion” of sorts, a history as a, uh, people.
One rabbit receives mystical visions.
Visions of death and destruction.
It is a tale of life, transition, death, relocating, but most importantly it is a tale about a journey, hope and faith.
Many have thought Adams’ tale went much further and deeper than that of a child’s story book.
Some thought there to be great religious and political overtones, or perhaps it was an allegory for Virgil’s tale of the Aeneid or Homer’s Odyssey— yet Adams has always denied such.
When our son was little, I wanted very much to read him the story as I had enjoyed it myself.
Each night before our son was to go to sleep, he and I would read together. Or actually I’d read, and he’d lay there intently listening. He’d have taken his bath, donned his pjs, always hunkering down under the covers, as I’d start the evening ritual of reading. His favorite stories being Polar Express, Robin Hood, James and the Giant Peach, and Dinotopia.Being an only child, his imagination was most keen.
He’d listen to whatever tale we’d be wading our way through, staring at the glow in the dark star stickers covering the bunk bed over his head–with the wheels of imagination churning.
Yet there was something about Watership Down that troubled my son. Maybe it was the rabbits as he imagined them with their homes and lives coming under a cloud of great peril, maybe it was the disturbing images from the visions the main character rabbit would see within his mind or maybe it was how vicious some of the rabbits could be to one another— no matter what the reasoning, he asked that we no longer continue the story. When I thought that maybe he’d enjoy seeing the video of the movie instead of hearing the story, he’d have none of it.
To this day, at the ripe old age of 25, if he ever sees or hears of the story, he immediately turns up his nose.
I don’t know if it had anything to do with our own rabbit tale, or that we as humans have that odd habit of personification..casting humanness on any and all things which exist in our realm or our desire to anthropomorphize animals–making them most human–possessing thoughts, hopes, joys, dreams, and woes just a real as our very own.
And I suppose that’s what we’ve all done at some point in our young lives with those stuffed animals of our childhood—we loved them until they become most real in our hearts. How many of us as grown ups, who, upon rummaging through attics and basements or the far recesses of long abandoned closets, coming across that now boxed up and most worn stuffed animal from our youths, are not overcome with a sudden wave of nostalgia? Pulling our long forgotten friend close to our face, smelling that oh so familiar scent of all that was of an encompassing world of security, love and acceptance?
As thoughts of PeterCotton Tail, the Velveteen rabbit and time past with a now grown child raced through though my mind, my small visitor made himself quite at home in the yard.
I suppose St Benedict is correct, welcome those who come calling, you never know what gifts their visits may bestow upon one’s memory and heart.