Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Taking It Like A Five Year Old Girl

Last week, Maria and I were passing a typical morning in the side yard, where our farm menagerie lives, where the veggie beds are flourishing. We were watching the chicas navigate the new roosts in the shark cage, and we were delighting in Joe's out of the hutch romp. It was a memorable time, relaxed and happy. Joe was having a good time, the chicas were enjoying their new situation.

We left Joe to enjoy more time in his garden reverie. About an hour later I came back to check on him. He was gone. I was only a bit concerned. He never ran away for long. He always returned. Surely he was in one of his usual corners of the yard, on one of his usual ventures.

But he did not show up in the afternoon, or after dinner. He could not be found in the dark, not with flashlights, not by calling him home. I worried. But he had done this before and shown up, tired and dewy, ready for breakfast.

He was not around at six in the morning, or eight, or ten. He did not return at the end of the day, or the next. And I practiced a patient and philosophical attitude... Joe, an eleven year old bunny, with a lost companion, five moves, and many happy tales to tell, had gone off to live with his wild companions, to finish his days in joyous bunny freedom.

Every time I called him and he did not appear, I thought on the good times we shared, and I smiled. I was at ease, and accepting of his poetic fate. I was sad, but grieving felt pointless, unnecessary.

A week after he disappeared, and the day before we would drive to San Francisco and meet Alex, our neighbor walked in to our yard, and almost apologetically, she asked, "Have you, by any chance," and she paused, "lost a bunny?"

I couldn't believe it. I had let go. But here was a chance.

She went on, "This wild looking rabbit has been in our yard. He never leaves. My son was even able to pet him. I was unsure, and afraid to touch him, but he was so calm. I was about to call animal control today... "

"It must be Joe!" We said, with some checked elation.

We followed Carol to her front door, where our dear Joe sat peacefully, as though waiting. Carol was relieved. So were we. I scooped him up. And thanked her. We laughed. It was so delightful, so funny. Everyone was smiling and sighing for this funny story, this happy ending.

I walked him home, passed the fruit trees, through the gate, and back in to his hutch. We freshened his water, refilled his food dish, and shared an apple with him. He nibbled the apple, then hopped in to his box, and for the first time ever he faced the inside of his nest box. I apologized to him. Not because he was lost, but because I wished he could safely live in a pastoral place all of his days.

The next day I filled his dishes, stroked his sleek back, and his silky ears, then we left on our vacation.

And the next day he did not wake up. We were already in San Francisco. My poor cousin had to break the news to us. And even though I had been so cool and calm when he was adventuring, presumably gone forever, this time I cried, and felt very sad. I felt like I should have been there with him, that I should have known that he was going to die. And I felt horrible for Becky, not wanting her to feel responsible, not wanting her to have to make arrangements for this dear pet bunny all by herself.


Becky took good care of him. He has always been taken good care of, loved, adored. Maybe that is why he lived so long. It was a good bunny life, I think.

I did not tell Maria the news, until today.

"Maria, come here. I have something to tell you." And I sat her on my lap and held her. "You know that Joe is a very old bunny, right?"

"Yes," she said, only half paying attention. She wanted to be outside scooping mud from the broken water main in the driveway.

"Joe went to sleep, Maria. And he did not wake up."

Maria looked at me, amused. She smiled and said, "Ah, mommy, that is a cute story."

I took a deep breath, and asked her, "Do you understand what I mean? Joe has died. He went to sleep, and he won't wake up, because his life is all done."

"Joe is dead?" Now she understood. And she was crying before she finished asking. And we cried together, and I reminded about her about all the details and rationales that I was depending on to feel better, which seemed to help. And she cried some more, and wailed a bit, saying, "I miss Joe!" And she recalled that when she pet his ears, calmly and slowly, that he liked it, and did not hop away. I assured her that Joe did love her, that he appreciated her love for him.

Maria took a deep breath, and with a teary voice she asked, "Can we get a new bunny, and name him Joe, and never forget Joe, because we will always think of him?"

Sad, and hilarious, and so perfectly innocent, and right. She felt sadness and healing, grief and moving on, all rolled in to one. She cut flowers and took them to the sacred spot, west of the fig tree. Marked by a cinder block and sea shells, Joe's resting place is now adorned with flowers. She drew him a picture, she sang him a song. When she is all grown up she wants to live in a little-little house in the back yard, where she will have her own pet rabbit, that will look a lot like Joe, and she will name him Joe, so we can all remember him.

In the meantime, we spent the afternoon with Olivia and Sandy, and their baby bunnies. Oh. my. goodness. Baby bunnies, and juvenile bunnies, and big bunnies, mama bunnies, and a snoozing cat, and a curious cat. It was marvelous.

Sandy and Olivia shared the funny, and sometimes sad, stories about keeping bunnies, about 4H, and animals, and all the good and humorous pleasures we find in having pets. Maria talked about Joe. I shared that he was once a baby bunny too, at the nursery, where they had a secret Garden. Sandy and Olivia remembered the Secret Garden, the rabbitat.

We made plans to see some goats, to return to see the three smallest babies open their eyes. And we agreed that any bunny that needs a home, will be welcome at the Bird House.

Dear Joe, We love you. You were a good bunny, an independent bunny, with a dignified air, and a darling twitch in your nose. We hope you were as happy to be with us, as we were to see you, to know you... whether in your box, nibbling celery, or hopping on the lawn. We will never forget you. Thank you Joe. And because you gave us so much joy, so much happiness, we are eager to bring another bunny home... we thank you for this too, because love never ends.


Miriam said...

What a beautiful post. Sad and lovely and loving. How many lessons do you learn about life from your daughter? I know I learned one today from her.

Katie said...

Oh Joe. Hugs to all of you.

Cheyenne -Millie said...

It sounds like Joe had a good life. We send condolences. Maria is so sweet!

hoj said...

Dear Maria,
Even though I never met Joe I will always remember his cute pictures and always think of him hopping around the yard waiting for you to come out and play. Joe, I will miss your sweet bunny face in the chicken blogosphere. May I suggest Chickenblog becomes Bunnyblog once a year on Joe's birthday? Love Aunt Carol

Julie said...

I'm sorry for the loss of your beloved bunny. xox

mtnchild said...

Oh where are my tissues ... ? Sniff, sniff.

I will always remember Joe, he had the cutest little nose and was just so sweet.

I have a kitty named Joey, I will think of Joe the bunny when I call my cat.

Much love and hugs to all,

Tonia said...

I am so sorry about Joe! I know he was an integral part of your family. My thoughts are with you all.

Anonymous said...

Oh, I am so sorry to hear about Joe. He was such a sweetie. He was so contemplative and accepting. I think he was a Buddhist bunny. We'll miss him.



Tracy said...

Oh, my... I am so sorry... Thinking of you all at this time and sending ((LOVE & HUGS))... Just love that photo of Marie with a basket full of bunnies :o)

Anonymous said...

So sad. But I love Maria's thoughtful way to celebrate Joe's life.

Anonymous said...

As I sit here crying, I think of Joe’s life as I know it from your blog and photos. Joe lived with the freedom and companionship that most pet bunnies never enjoy. He romped in the yard, he had the cats and chicks and Betty to chat with, he snacked on flowers and fresh fruit, he rolled in the dirt, he used all his senses on his adventures--sight and smell and touch and sound and taste. While the novelty of having a cute, soft and wiggly nosed bunny wears off for many families, you never kept him caged and forgot about him. Even at 11 years old you made sure he was out and about in the yard with his family, you held him and showed him how much he was loved. And he sleeps in Heavenly peace now, knowing that he had the best family ever.

Love, Zan

Tami @ Lemon Tree Tales said...

OH no, I didn't realize that Joe had died. That's so sad. What a sweet remembrance you've written for him.

Emily Cole said...

Oh, I'm so teary now, Natalie... How sweet... I'm sorry about Joe, he sounds like he was really a great bunny.

d.a. said...

May Joe be frolicking in sweet afterlife pastures, and put in a good word for THE most perfect bunny to come your way. {hug}