The White Rabbit

          Sun, a luxurious rarity, appeared in our coastal valley and I took advantage to plant some perennials under the new trellis arbor in our back hedge, hoping they would wind and grow over the summer.  As I crouched over and planted, I concentrated on the task of digging and composting and setting each plant just so.  I looked up and to my left I saw from the corner of my eye something white.  Standing to better see, I realized a white rabbit was in the hedge, nibbling the leaves of a forsythia. 
          First I checked to make sure I was still in this earthly realm and not in the stage play of Harvey.  I knew I hadn’t ingested anything more than a fruit smoothie for breakfast.  I had added a tablespoon full of dried greens but was quite sure no hallucinogens were along for the ride.  Watching for a moment, I determined there actually was a white rabbit in my hedge, even though I was not raising any white rabbits.
          How it came to be there in our back yard that is sometimes home to coyotes, hawks, turkey vultures, dogs, horses, deer, nutria, skunks and our own cats—a whole assortment of domestic and wild creatures that would find a white rabbit pesky or tasty, indeed—was a mystery to me.  Since it was white, I reasoned that it also was domestic and probably someone’s pet.
          I tested my theory by talking to the rabbit about this and that.  The rabbit’s ears perked up and he looked at me, nose twitching.  He didn’t run away.  He had abandoned the forsythia for some of my annuals in his quest for breakfast.
          Hoping he would hop away into someone else’s yard, I returned my focus to my work at hand.  Looking up later and glancing around, I saw the rabbit had come closer and was now taking a siesta in the rugosa rose patch alongside our deck.
          Yes, he was cute, but I envisioned a gigantic-toothed creature a few months from now gorging himself on everything planted in my vegetable garden so nothing would be left for my freezer, and I wanted him gone.  For a micro-second I thought about whacking him with my shovel and thereby ending his voracious foraging of my plant matter but at the same moment I knew I was a pacifist at heart and had to find some other way of getting him to where he belonged, alive.
          Plucking the soil-encrusted cell phone from my pocket, I called my neighbor Sara to ask if it was her white rabbit.
          “Well, I have one in my back yard, so I was calling to check. Do you want a white rabbit?”
          “I just had surgery.  The last thing I want right now is a rabbit to take care of.  Now if it was horses in your yard you were calling about, those would be ours, but not rabbits.”
          Or a dog, I thought, because Sara’s dog is always over here, too, as part of her daily rounds.
          After wishing her a speedy recovery, I continued pondering the ownership of my Leporidae friend, who contrary to the title of John Updike’s first Rabbit novel, was not running anywhere, but instead munching where I stood, on my newly-planted blue-flowered veronica.
          That made me consider the shovel solution again, and it was so handy, even, but I remembered that my buddy Ben at the head of the lane raised rabbits for a 4-H project, so I called his number.  He was in school, but his mom, Katy, answered.
          “Do you have a white rabbit?” I asked.
          Silence.  Then a big, long sigh.
          “Yes.   We’ve been trying to catch him for two weeks.”
          “He’s here, eating all my plants.  He’s been here for several days, pulling up everything I’ve newly planted.  I had thought it was deer, but now I know.”
          “I have to go to work in 15 minutes.  Can you catch him?”
          To myself I allowed as his retrieval was not really my problem.
          “I have to be leaving soon myself.  I don’t have time either.”
          Katy began a diatribe of  how she hated all the animals her children have for their various projects, how they all get out of their confines, how she or her husband have to take care of them most of the time—all the things any mother of kids with 4-H animals says at one time or another.
          My brain started thinking about catching that rabbit instead of listening to Katy, since I’d heard or said all that before.  Besides, having no flowers or food for winter was my problem and I needed to solve it now rather than later.  I knew I’d have to be slow, graceful and cagey.  I began speaking to the rabbit again, conversationally.  My conversational skills often appear to lull others into waking coma and maybe that would work on this rabbit, too.
          I tossed my cell down on the lawn behind me, the neighbor still lamenting, and in the same move swayed over and down, grabbing the rabbit by its ears.  At first he didn’t move at all, and then he tried, but I hung on tightly.  When he realized he was captured, he squealed.  Piercingly.  Like a tortured cat.  Sara’s dog, who was on the other side of the hedge instead of home in her yard, began barking.  The rabbit squealed all the louder. 
          “Go home!” I yelled at the dog.  For once it worked and she trotted off.
          “I caught the rabbit!” I hollered into the phone which was still transmitting.  If the neighbor didn’t know that, she had to be deaf.  The rabbit shrieked again.  “Bring the cage!  I’m waiting.”
          “On my way,” Katy said.
          All the blood rushed to my head as I stood, one hand around the ears and one on the back of the rabbit.  I hoped I wouldn’t faint before Katy arrived and just in the nick of time I heard her tires spin on our driveway gravel. 
          “Where are you, where are you?” she shouted.
          “Over here, over here!” I rejoined.  The woman in a red sweatshirt hunched over, in the midst of a head rush, holding onto the ears of a squealing white rabbit, alongside a hedge just beginning to leaf out.  Not exactly invisible.
          Just then Katy holding a cage appeared around the corner of the arbor, and we wrangled the rabbit into its cage and latched the door.  I retrieved my phone, turned it off, and stood up, gulping air.
          More conversational lamentations about children and unwanted animal husbandry ensued on Katy’s part to which I didn’t listen and more delineation of damages accrued by unwanted munching mandibles ensued on my part to which Katy didn’t listen, until, realizing she had to get to work, Katy said another thank-you and I said good-bye.
          The day seemed so quiet after that.  I worried about the trauma that poor white rabbit must have suffered and I hoped his memory was short-lived and waking up from his next sleep he would remember nothing but grass, lettuce, and pellets.  I worried about my momentary lapse in pacifism and the proposed assault against one of God’s creatures, if only in my mind.
          I wrote my sister Susie about the day’s events.
          The next day, I received three e-mails.  I will replicate them here for you:
Dear Bunny Whisperer ~
I’ve heard of your excellent talent at rangling bunnies and was inquiring about your fees.  It seems I’m having a hard time capturing enough bunnies to keep me satisfied these days.  Old age, sagging parts, etc.  are making my “wants” difficult, thereby making my reputation as the “master bunny keeper” falter.  So I’m turning to you, as a shrewd bunny rangler, to hop to my aid.
Awaiting your response ~ Hugh Hefner 
Dear Rabbit Rangler:
Tales of your successfuly rabbit rangling have been a floatin’ through the air. 
I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I’m in need of your services. 
I’ve been trying for years to catch that rascally rabbit, Bugs Bunny, without success.
He’s made a fool of me for the last time! 
Please meet me in the woods as soon as possible.
Elmer Fudd
Dear Garden Lady:
I wanted to let you know that I’m mad at you.
Here I was, minding my own business yesterday, when you engaged me into a conversation.
Now, I’m not one to be tricked easily, but you appeared to be a nice lady and I just couldn’t resist your charms.
Ha!  Some schmuck I am, huh?  Not only did you pull my ears, but you intentionally ratted me out to the guards ~ who as you know came and locked me up again!
Well, here’s a warning, Miss not so nice garden lady ~ I will escape again (cause that’s how I roll) AND I will be back!
Oh yeah, I almost forgot ~ Just a clue ~ if you don’t want company ~ quit puttin’ out the appetizers!!
Your friend no more ~ Peter Cottontail
I think I will keep my shovel handy.  What do you think? 
Maybe I should go ask Alice.  I think she’ll know.
This arrived from my friend Linda Nygaard who is an excellent cook.
Should he reappear: 
Lapin A La Cocotte
Servings: 2-3
Prep Time: 20 mins
Total Time: 1 1/2 hrs
  1. 1 In a large skillet or medium-sized Dutch oven, cook bacon until done; remove bacon with a slotted spoon and reserve for another use (for a salad, etc).
  2. 2 In the bacon drippings, cook the onion and garlic until transparent. A.
  3. 3 dd the rabbit pieces and saute over medium heat until rabbit is golden.
  4. 4 Sprinkle on the flour and continue to brown rabbit for another 5 minutes or so, then add the beef broth, red wine, thyme, parsley and bay leaves.
  5. 5 Cover and simmer over low heat for about an hour, adding more broth if necessary. Salt and pepper to taste (with the bacon drippings, not much salt is needed). Serve with mashed potatoes or buttered egg noodles.
ANOTHER ADDENDUM from Sally Hendry:
Dear Ms. Close,
Please send undercover investigators straight away to Tillamook, Oregon, USA.  Apprehension of “muse of south prairie” should be easy (see her blog of May 22, 2011 for ID & MO info) & mind assimilation into our order a snap as you recount loudly per manual at close range screaming with the usual spit spray her recent indecencies on our latest refugee (Case #5261, white domestic male, identifying characteristic of unusually long, deformed ears).  After submission, have her write the usual brief explanation to her kin; we will expect investigators/apprehenders (employ the local Navy Seals if needed) with this muse back at the sanctuary in good time.  She will serve her sentence of life without parole in our Gracious-Green -Alfalfa Pellet Compound grooming & otherwise being supplicants to our more elderly inhabitants, eventually engaging in one-on-one Forgiveness Therapy with  Case 5261 as her trauma decreases.
Again my congratulations & heartfelt appreciation for your recent series Damages wherein you cleverly & powerfully manipulate your fellow humans by mentally & physically prevailing  over the weak.  However, no stew  pot is too small nor fire too puny to deliver the ultimate coup de grace.
Harvey III
Sanctum Hareum
Brisbane, Austrailia

The Tie That Binds, A Mother’s Day Offering

        Thirty years ago, I wrote an essay about how just because a child is a step-child, your attachment to each other is not less than if she was a birth child.  I learned that much in my first ten years with my step-daughter.  Something not having to do with blood ties bound us together from the start.
        Six months after my first marriage, lying in my back yard against the vinyl siding of our tiny house, I was pondering the deplorable state of our union and sobbing, when my six year-old step-daughter found me.  No words were exchanged but somehow she knew what was taking place in my mind and heart. 
“You can’t leave us,” she told me.  “You made a vow for better or for worse.”  Who knew those six year-old ears were listening and understanding the wedding ceremony?  Even though it was “for worse” the next ten years, and life was not kind to either of us, it would have been worse for her had I gone, and so I stayed.  That decision was the knot at the beginning of our umbilical cord.
Twenty years after that, an odd incident stunned me.  I was in L.A., visiting my friend Jerry, who set up a reading for me with a fortune teller, a friend of his.  She read her Tarot cards and did her magic, all of which I can either accept or not, usually.  She intoned her spiel and I sat there, dumbfounded.
Nothing she said pertained to me one whit.  Instead, every single thing she saw related to the events taking place in my step-daughter’s life, down to the most minute detail.  How could that be?  I felt like a character in The Revenge of the Bodysnatchers.  It was as if her energies had taken up residence in the spiritual home of me.  In my mind, I saw a painting of a hollowed-out body—a pod—with my step-daughter ensconced inside, a symbiosis of the highest order.
When I explained what had happened to the fortune teller, she was as amazed as I.  She said she had heard of these things happening before but never witnessed it in her own work.  “Your step-daughter is really attached to you,” she said.  “You two have a strong connection.”
What seems odd is that while my birth son has not usurped the “me” in me—yet—a child not of me had at that moment, at least, overcome me.  That kind of transformation I can only explain, if I must, as Divine interference.
This year my step-daughter took charge of her own life and made changes the fortune teller said needed making and predicted would happen.  My step-daughter’s life is now on a different and self-determined course.  I applaud her courage in altering her path which will include service to others, which has always been her main strength.  I can’t help thinking that if I saw the fortune teller again, my reading would show a totally different result, devoid of my step-daughter’s spirit.
Or maybe not.  Maybe a mother fills up with the energies of her children and they are there to stay, sometimes larger, sometimes smaller, depending on their need.   Experiences in my life have taught me there is a tie that binds with knots that cannot be undone, linking us to those whom we love, those who go for a time with us and then after us.