Spring is supposed to be the season when feathered hope sings, yet the mother was alone with six little ones to care for. All of the responsibility for food and shelter rested on her. She found a small place not far from where I live, barely big enough for one, yet they all squeezed in. It was little more than a place to sleep, but it sheltered them. It would be easy to judge her for leaving the little ones alone when she went out looking for food. She always waited until dark and stole most of it from the neighbors.
A female alone at night has to think about personal safety. She did, but care for her offspring compelled her to take chances.
She managed, at least for a while. Two weeks or so ago, she didn’t come home. The six she left behind waited, used to her absences, yet confident she would return. She never did.
Then several days ago the last of the snow melted, and the half-past-cool of the thermometer lured my grandchild and me outside to pull up the dead plants in the garden box. Tugging the skeletal remains of last year’s petunias unearthed tufts of gray and white rabbit hair mixed with cut grass placed carefully over a small indentation in the earth. When we began to move away the hair and grass, we uncovered six small but perfectly formed bunnies nestled together. In spite of the carefully built nest, not one was alive.
Their fur-covered skin showed they were at least eight days old; a week later they could have left the nest and started eating the remaining plants in my garden like their mother.
I laid out their small bodies on the dirt; and the two of us, grandchild and a grandmother, marveled at the grandeur before us. Such exquisite beauty hidden beneath the weeds. Life buried, created to rise up and live. All around us, life busied herself, greening the grass, sending up worms for the fat robins to tug out of the ground; and at our feet, death.
Last summer at the petting zoo, the two of us spent a good amount of time holding bunnies, feeling their hearts beat rapid and strong against our hands, like small drums calling us to dance, to breathe, and to embrace the sky. In the growing cold of this day though, no drumbeats were heard, only the grandchild wailing for the music that should have been.
I could offer no comfort; we each must face this horror alone. Death attends every banquet life throws. We don’t always see her, but she’s there; and when you least expect it, she shows her gaunt face and stares at you with those eyes. Like black holes in space, you feel their power to draw you in, sense the pull of that ravenous hunger, intent on swallowing up the world. What can you do except wail?
After I gathered up the grass and tufts of hair, plucked by the mother from her own body, I placed them in a small bag. Then I gently laid the kits, as bunnies are also called, and put them in the garage. It was a small concession to the child, who believed that if we kept them, they would forever remain as they were in death.
This stubborn hope of the child made my heart ache and at the same time strangely comforted me. We are creatures of hope, living in a world of unspeakable wonder. And this stubborn hope is the ancient hope, as ancient as spring itself.
39 thoughts on “Spring is supposed to be the season when feathered hope sings”
That was lovely. Sad, tragic, and hopeful.
Thanks for reading.
I am no stranger to death. But I wish you had put a
“dead bunny” warning in your subject line! That photo was not a good way to start the day. Those poor little creatures with their little pink undersides.
It was a sad photo; I hope the other two were more uplifting.
Oh my word…that was so beautifully written and SO sad.
I appreciate your reading and comment.
The circle of life….sometimes I hate it! It’s so unfair.
And impossible to separate the joy from the sorrow.
Aw, yes, thanks for that reminder.
Thank you for reading, Myra.
Having recently had my own baby bunny encounter, I can only say that this was tragically sad, and yet, by tragically sad, I mean it was filled with truth and beauty. Death has a way of erasing some of the innocence of childhood, and nothing we say can restore the uninitiated heart of a child. It is then that we reach towards hope, and offer words of comfort. Beautifully written, as always.
I always appreciate your comments. Sadness, truth, beauty – they all grow in the same soil and sometimes they are so hard to distinguish.
Ah…the best laid plans. It is a sad reminder of so much; that we cannot always protect those we love, that death comes unbidden. I am comforted that these bunnies were huddled together comforting each other. That’s was survivors do, until they, too, take their turn at leaving.
Having your grandchildren with you for this discovery so reminds me of the title poem in a book by Maude Meehan http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1716796.Washing_The_Stones
If you can’t find the book, I will email the poem to you.
Thank you for the link to the book. I will try to find the poem you mentioned.
So beautiful and heartfelt.
Bless…that circle of life is often a cruel ride. Poor babies…:-( thank you for another beautiful post.
Thank you for reading and commenting.
Sad but beautiful post. That stubborn hope may never leave us…
I hope to be stubborn until the end.
You are an awesome grandmother. Your grandchild is very fortunate to have you.
Thanks for your kind words.
Tender, yearning, heartbreaking youth. When the grandchild is distracted, the dead kits can be returned to nourish the earth that would have nourished them, and there will be other kits for other grandchildren. Death always in attendance, and life coming back, in turn, to dance on *her* grave. The strange and poignant cycles of the seasons….
What a touching meditation you have written once again, my amazing friend. Thank you. And gentle hugs to your sweet grandchild to keep the innocence intact for as long as may be.
Thank you, Kathryn. All is well again with the grandchild. I will happily give the child extra hugs.
Your post touched my heart. How good for our grandchildren to learn the mysteries of life together with parents and grandparents, both the sweet and the bitter… and how good for grandparents to acknowledge the importance and the sanctity of hope.
I don’t suppose there is any greater nourishment to the soul than hope. I am glad to have had this time with the child.
The sorrow the child felt was like a bad dream, soon forgotten. I’m not sure that the child know yet that it is a recurring dream.
Beauty and sadness walk hand in hand. An old story, retold in every age.
It is an old story told by an old woman. 🙂
There is love and caring in that child’s heart, and I hope that heart never becomes complacent to death or jaded by life.
Somehow I missed this comment.
Life is full of these kinds of heart breaks, and the key is to keep the heart breakable.
Ah, what a superb outlook.. If the heart is breakable then the heart is vulnerable and therefore it is still a receptive organ that remains open to hope and love.
A poignant and thought-provoking post.
Beautifully written but so very sad … ‘Death attends every banquet life throws’ is a wonderful and thought provoking phrase …
I’m sorry I missed this comment. It looks like I missed several because they didn’t show on my notifications.
So glad you enjoyed the post.
Beautifully done. That was a pleasure to read. I have to laugh, you just made me enjoy a story about dead baby rabbits. Pretty clever.
Forgive me for not answering sooner. My notifications don’t seem up-to-date.
I’m glad you enjoyed the post. Thank you for reading.