Freaky, right? Well, I chose not to ignore the image of a rabbit that came hopping into my consciousness/dreams at 4:00 a.m. two nights ago. I got up out of bed, turned on the lights in the family room and drew this rabbit. I’ve always had some unexplainable ‘thing’ for rabbits and have yet to discover why. I’ve had four experiences that began to define this attraction and I will briefly describe them here.
First, there was this dress! My mother sewed this on her treadle sewing machine for my school photograph. She always made certain that we were dressed to the nines for school photo day. How sad for her that she had no control over what my hair would do after recess or the expression I might have on my face! This makes me pause and smile. I still remember the feel of the fabric, the bow that was tied at the back, the colour of the taffeta and how beautiful I felt, even as a grade one student. The reason I still remember it? You’ve got it! The bunny trim! There was nothing softer or more ‘magical’ from my little-girl perspective! I had no idea that a rabbit had lost its life. I didn’t think about that. I was caught up in the tactile/visual experience of this white trim.
Secondly, Flo Hunter was my mother’s closest friend and our closest neighbour. Our family was stationed in St. Margaret’s, New Brunswick at the time. Peter-the-rabbit was the Hunter family pet! He was a wonderful white over-fed bunny who had been with Flo and her children for some time. I envied her children this bunny because for many years, our only family pets had been cats and dogs, Pal being our dog at the time. He was a mutt who was strung out on our backyard clothesline. I remembered that the PMQs backed onto a large field and then a forested ares. I can picture that still.
Well, I decided one fine summer day that, while my playmates were well-distracted with games of kick-the-can and such, I would steal Peter and have him for my very own. I carried him down to the basement and locked him into a foot locker that was hidden under the stairs. There, in the dark, I imagined that I would take him out any time I wished and play with him. Surely this plan would work out perfectly!
When the Hunters noticed Peter was missing, the entire neighborhood went on a search for the lost bunny. It was nearing dusk and the children and adults, both, were weaving in and out of yards and even exploring the woods out back. I still remember the children’s wild cries. “Peter! Oh! Peter!!” The Hunter children were in tears and Flo’s arms were flailing! So that I would not be found out, I remember engaging in the search, acting concerned and calling Peter’s name also. And sadly, I was even articulating my own theories about where Peter might be hiding.
It wasn’t until later that evening, or even the next morning that I fessed up; the guilt was just too much for me to carry any longer. When we went to the foot locker, we found Peter….inhaling….exhaling….inhaling….exhaling very slowly as though he was on his last ‘bunny legs’. I have absolutely no recollection of the outcome, my shame, or the consequence for me, but Flo and her children were ecstatic at the returned bunny rabbit. Looking back, I can not help but wonder what was going on in my head at the time of the bunny caper…and what was my passionate attraction to bunnies?
In the late 1990s I lived on a beautiful ridge lot, just above the Bow River. It was a ‘magical’ place to live because I could easily disappear into the river bottom and see all sorts of wildlife; plants, birds and mammals. It was absolutely amazing. One night I was in the living room and looking across the street when I saw the flash of lights in the field stretched out before the ridge. I stepped out, in my nightgown, onto the front porch and then gradually down the front steps, trying to make sense of what I was seeing. As the lights danced horizontally across the field, I also noticed the flash of red eyes and the white form of a rabbit racing one direction and then another, in extreme fear. The entire nightmare unfolded as I ran, in my pyjamas, into the dark field, shouting. A couple of young people were shining flashlights into the eyes of the frightened rabbit and as it became mesmerized, the other was beating a golf club onto the ground, trying to beat the rabbit, as sport. The air rang with the sound of their laughter until they heard my shout and abruptly ran the opposite direction. I saw the white form of the rabbit disappear into the night.
The fourth experience took place late at night, likely ten years ago. I used to go running in a wide open field a short distance from here. I would do several rounds of the perimeter once the sun had just set and Laurie-dog would run along side me, taking little breaks to explore and exercise as well. This particular night, the air was cool. I remember the rhythmical breathing as I almost completed the first lap. All of a sudden the air split wide open…an explosion of movement! Laurie ditched me and took off into the center of the field. Before my eyes were what seemed to be hundreds of white rabbits racing in all directions. It was as though a silent field was suddenly undulating. I had never seen anything like it!
I do not know why these encounters with rabbits have been a part of my emotional formation. I do not understand if there is any real significance to the symbol of the rabbit in my life or what I am meant to do. Just recently, however, I have been reading about and viewing news items coming out of Canmore, Alberta. A rabbit cull is underway. Maybe that’s why I am experiencing recent agitation around the image of a rabbit. For a short while, at least, I’m going to explore this subject in my art work and see where it all leads.