Thursday, November 4, 2010


When John and I moved to our new home in NW Portland last autumn, I was missing Comet and the guinea hens and the deer that grazed in the pasture at dusk. But on the first day, sitting at my desk in my new study, I had a visitation. Directly ahead of me, just outside the window, was a large rabbit. We stared at each other and I said “Hello, Bunny.” He lingered for quite awhile munching on grass while I wrote poetry on my computer. Occasionally we’d both look up at one another in quiet companionship. The next morning he was there again, in the same spot, gazing at me and grazing. He’d show up in the evening as well, nibbling at the quince.

I immediately consulted my dictionary of animal totems: Animal-Speak. It reported that rabbits are known for fertility and new life. This was a propitious sign for our new lives in our house on the hill. Moreover, in Chinese folklore, the rabbit is a sign of sensitivity and artistic abilities. I felt truly blessed.

After about a week, it was time to name the bunny. I came up with Cassidy. When I told a poet friend, Charles Goodrich, that I'd named our feral bunny 'Cassidy,' he smiled and said knowingly 'Neal Cassidy?'

'No,' I said, 'Hopalong Cassidy.' I realize now, with some sadness, that many people will not get the reference to either one.

This spring, another rabbit showed up. A baby. Just one—a very cute one. I watched her  delicately nibble the grass and then stand on her hind legs to reach the azaleas.  I hoped that she wouldn't develop a taste for my beloved peonies. Just to make sure, I put metal cages around the tender red shoots. After a few weeks of daily visits, she became part of the family. I named her Camille after the French poet.

A year has passed since Cassidy first visited. Both rabbits come infrequently now. I realize that I know almost nothing about rabbits—their life span, mating habits, hibernation. I do know that coyotes walk boldly down the street at night. My best guess on the location of their burrow is that it's under the hawthorn bushes. With the hawthorn's sharp thorns and thick foliage for protection, I hope that my rabbits are more wiley than the coyote.

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