Chasing Rabbits

I try not to think about him or to look for him. I’ve stopped leaving his dinner out for him. At least for tonight, I think I have. It’s hard to let go of his beauty, though. I want to see him again and hope to be able to touch him. But I’m afraid he feels betrayed.

 When my neighbor in the next apartment mentioned how odd it was that the larger rabbits in the neighborhood were white, and the small ones brown, I had no idea what he was talking about. I said they all looked gray-brown to me. Then it arrived in our courtyard. A domestic rabbit, someone’s lost or abandoned pet. My neighbor said, “See? It wasn’t just some Jefferson Airplane thing.” Since then, that song has played in my mind, complete with lyrics I didn’t realize I knew. Feed your head?

I was more concerned with feeding the rabbit. I wanted to tame it and find it a good home. Pet rabbits’ colors make them easy prey. This rabbit is white, astoundingly clean as if freshly washed and brushed, with gray-brown ears and a little gray stripe down its back. A few days after its first arrival, it was joined a smaller white bunny with gray spots. They sometimes went to the yard of the empty trailer across the alley and out into the alley. There’s grass there, but dogs who escape their owners tend to show up there. And two big, half-feral Siamese cats prowl the neighborhood, hunting. Not to mention foxes and hawks. I know nature has to take its course, but I grew attached to the white rabbits, giving them fruits and vegetables, and they began to come up and eat from my hand. The white rabbit was so at ease with me, he would sit there after a veggie snack and wash his face, yawn, and stretch out for a nap. Once I saw him fold an ear down and run it through his mouth for cleaning and flip it back up.

My neighbor and I located the rabbits’ original owner. His fiancée’s granddaughter moved out of state to live with her dad and left seven pet bunnies behind. Two escaped. The man didn’t want the runaways back, but he brought me a lot of food for them. The spotted bunny got adopted, after a minor chase in the yard. I was impressed with how the mother-and-son team who came for the bunny worked together to catch her in a fishing net on a pole. They raise rabbits, and the teenaged boy shows them in 4H. They donate affectionate bunnies who don’t make good show rabbits to families whose children with autism need a pet. They also take bunnies to the Veterans’ Home for petting. The spotted rabbit screamed like a human for a moment when her paws got tangled in the net, but once her new owner had her cradled in his arms, she totally trusted him and let him examine her paws and teeth. I got to pet her finally. She had the softest fur I’ve ever touched. Now she’s living in what I call the Bunny Spa, safe and loved with plenty of fresh water and hay.

But Bunny Number Two is another story. The white rabbit. We tried to catch him twice and failed. While the sunset burned orange into gray clouds in the west, he led us down alleys and over rocks and goatheads and other thorny weeds in the yards of run-down, abandoned houses and trailers, places I would not otherwise have gone. (This feels like a great opening scene for a mystery.) The boy caught him briefly in his net, but the bunny sprang out before the magical taming cuddle could take place.

I decided to break up with the white rabbit, to let go of trying to save him and pet him and take care of him. He no longer stops by in the evening to hang out with me and receive offerings of pears, spinach and lettuce. Not after the episode of the net. Instead, he visits early in the morning while I’m still sleeping. My neighbor sees him sitting under the fig tree where I’ve been leaving his nightly salad and bowl of water, staring  back at him. White Bunny is playing hard to get. I say we’ve broken up, but in truth, this could go on a long time. As Alice could tell, you, once you start chasing white rabbits …

Spider Old Woman, Part Two

A synchronicity isn’t just a coincidence. It’s one that means something to the person to whom it happens. My synchronicity story is about a Spider Old Woman story.

Quite a few years ago, I was in a relationship with a man who denied that he was keeping secrets from me, secrets that were unhealthy for our relationship, but the evidence added up and I broke off with him. A few months later he got in touch and persuaded me that I had misunderstood what was going on. I had planned to drop him from my life and move home to New Mexico, but I chose to disregard my intuition and judgment and trusted his words instead. I still moved, but we had an unexpected reunion the day before I left. After his visit, I sat on my back porch in rural Virginia gazing out into the woods, and the herd of deer I had come to know as my closest neighbors came into view. I was stunned to see an unfamiliar animal among them. At first I thought it was a horse, though it made no sense for one to be in the woods—but it was a white deer, gazing directly at me. It felt miraculous, a sign of some kind.

On my way out of town early the next day I stopped by my landlady’s antique shop to drop off the key to the house and she had a sculpture of a white deer on display in the window. The message seemed to be begging for my attention. I was sure it had to do with this man, and since the deer was so beautiful, I took it as a positive message that I’d done the right thing.

I stayed in touch with him while I lived in Santa Fe, but we didn’t see each other until another change of jobs brought me back East, this time to Northeastern North Carolina. Shortly after we had our reunion number two, I went to the Meherrin tribe’s powwow where I bought the book, Spider Woman’s Web. In it, I found the story, The Woman Who Kept Secrets. My short retelling below doesn’t do justice to it, but you can get the message—and then read the book.

A long time ago, on one of the ancient Pueblos, there was a woman who waited until all her friends had married before she would commit, and only when she was lonely did she finally agreed to marry a young man who loved her, though she didn’t love him. He was kind, and for a short whole they were happy enough, but then she became restless. Sometimes he woke at night and discovered that she was gone. One night—though she claimed he must have dreamed her absences—he decided to find out where she went. He pretended to be asleep, but once she’d gone far enough from their home, he followed her by moonlight and came to kiva outside the pueblo. (A kiva is a ceremonial underground chamber) He peered in and saw a strange ceremony going on.

Some versions of the story have a shape-shifting shaman in this scene, an act of possible witchcraft; other versions have people misusing the sacred chamber by coupling with partners other than their spouses. The man was discovered and thought he might be hurt or killed, but instead he was invited in. His wife sat beside him and assured him all was well, better than it seemed, and he fell asleep with his head in her lap. When he woke up, he was on a narrow ledge on a cliff, hungry and thirsty and alone. His wife and another man were on the far side of the canyon on another cliff. They threw roasted corn to him, but if he moved to catch it and eat it he would fall. He had to avoid snakes, too, so he held very still. He lost consciousness and woke again, this time in the home of Spider Old Woman. She gave him medicine, an ointment to rub on his wife’s shoulders, which she promised would solve the problems in their marriage.

That night as the man and his wife lay together he rubbed the ointment on her shoulders. To his surprise, she became agitated and got up and went outdoors. He followed her. She began to pace, looking wildly about, and then her body started changing. Her legs, her torso and then finally her face became those of a white deer. The deer gazed at him for a moment with tears in its eyes, and then joined a herd of other deer and ran off. He never saw her again, and he got on with his life.

In my new home in North Carolina, I encountered another white deer, this one grazing with its brown herd-mates in the field behind my house. I’m not the only person ever to see a white deer—Northeastern North Carolina has a few of them—but for me, they carried a message. I had been right the first time. I needed to send this man out of my life for good, and I did. He was the man who kept secrets. The white deer.