Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Rabbit Died

That's an expression most people of a certain age may not be familiar with, but that's what one said when one was preggers.  It's something I avoided saying last autumn when our rabbit Rosie died.  She was a good companion, always reasonably happy to greet Jack or me when we came home or even when we just entered into her space, a space she fiercely defended from the cat.  I'd never heard a rabbit bark before Rosie, but that's pretty much what it sounded like when she'd charge the trespassing cat.  The trespassing cat wasn't quite sure what to make of it, so she'd leave, somewhat bemused, somewhat confused.  Ultimately, the two shared space pretty well.  Odd that the rabbit would be the alpha.

Rosie gave us more years than we'd expected to have with her, more than seven.  It was apparent when she started to die.  When she died, we weren't sure what to do.  We have no lawn space to bury her.  We couldn't afford cremation.  I suggested that we return her to nature by placing her in the nearby Swatara Creek.

We waited until twilight.  Neither of us wanted to be obvious either in our plan or in our grief.  Several cars zipped by us as walked to the Swatara.  As we arrived, an egret flew overhead.  It took my breath away.  It was October.  I'd assumed the great white egrets that grace our region in the summer had migrated.  I hadn't seen any for a while.  It's a bird I'm particularly fond of.  I like seagulls because of their shape, especially the arc of their wings when the glide.  I like the red wing blackbird because of that striking red epaulet on the otherwise shiny black feathers.

The great white egret always catches my eye and, whenever possible, makes me pause, stop dead in my tracks.  It is never not graceful, it is never not beautiful.  To me, it is the most elegant of birds.  I'm not a birder and don't know much of anything about egrets, but I'm in awe of them.  They stand serene as they wait for a fish.  The shape of their body intrigues me, both when they stand and when they fly.  Their huge wingspan, large wings grabbing at the air, legs back, neck in an incredible, supple curve.  For a moment I feel I'm in an ancient Asian painting.

And there it was, gliding upstream overhead as we approached the place where we'd return Rosie to the earth.  I couldn't believe it.  I'm not sure what my religious beliefs are, but I don't believe in coincidences.  For whatever wonderful reason, the egret flyover was meant to be.

Jack later asked me if I saw the egret.  I told him I did and how good it made me feel.  He is devoted to Quan Yin.  He told me that she is frequently represented by egrets and cranes and that she has a special place in her heart for rabbits.  He knew it was a sign from her.

One thing I did for Rosie was find grasses and dandelion leaves for her, which she'd gobble immediately.  We referred to that as her salad.  When I took a walk I'd look around.  It was ideal if someone hadn't mowed their lawn and I could grab a handful of grass.  As the season progressed, dandelions would grow large and their leaves could be huge.  Of course, the salad would have to end over winter and she'd have to make do with her store bought alfalfa.

It took a while last fall not to look at grass and grab some for Rosie's salad.  Now it's spring and grasses have started to grow.  I see her favorites.  I look at other grasses and wonder if she'd like them.  I smile at a dandelion until I remember.  It's something I don't like to remember.  She's no longer home to bark at the cat or munch on her salad.  How hard it is to look at the beautiful green on the ground and not think about her.

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