After the kids were in bed tonight (a night that ended in utter devastation, with Grace telling me I’d broken their hearts because I got fed up and “threw away” all the toys left all over their bedroom floor), I headed out on the deck to call a friend who would hopefully tell me that I did the right thing, despite the “broken hearts,” tears and Oscar-worthy drama. She was a good friend, indeed, and didn’t even suggest that I remove the wire coat hangers for good measure.
As I was confessing, er, conversing, I noticed a rabbit in the grass. It was certainly the mama bunny to the nest of baby bunnies we have in our yard. This nest is at least the fourth nest of babies to be born in our yard this year (I now know how rabbits have gotten their reproduction reputation…they multiply like I do) and I am thinking word has gotten out in the rabbit community that I am a sucker for things four-legged, and that our fenced, dogless yard is a delightful place to double as a labor and delivery ward for the preyed-upon.
For those less knowledgeable about rabbits, an overview: Mama rabbits scratch a hole in the ground that’s large and deep enough to hold two small apples. They have their babies in the hole and then pack and cover them with their own fur and grass and leaves. They camouflage their nest so excellently that you can easily walk right past one and never even know it’s there. Rabbits hide their young in plain sight and only visit at dusk and dawn to feed, so as to not attract predators to their babies.
My rabbit knowledge developed this spring, when I mowed over a nest. I didn’t even know what I’d stumbled upon. We had some badly neglected, lengthy grass, thanks to a lawnmower that’s more temperamental than two-year-old Liam. I mowed and saw a nerve-wracking amount of fur, not knowing what I would discover. After much nervous poking, there were the baby bunnies (unharmed). I panicked, fearful that I’d scented them with human and lawnmower stink and that the mother would abandon them. I packed the nest back up and was convinced I’d compromised the nest and ruined the natural plan. I placed grass in a certain pattern over the nest to ensure that the mother was indeed coming back. The patterned grass didn’t seem to move. I worried the bunnies were starving. I kept peeking in on them to make sure they were still breathing. It was early spring with cold nights. I worried that they were going to freeze, being so small in their earthy nest. One night yielded a torrential downpour that caused me to go outside at 1 AM and fashion a “tent” over the rabbit nest so that the mother could still get to them, but so that they wouldn’t drown in their hole. I did internet searches, called animal shelters, and was prepared for a rescue mission. I didn’t sleep normally for a lot of days.
And all the while Mike, ever the voice of reason, talked me off my ledge and out of my crazy, reiterating what the animal shelter people said…that nature is pretty efficient and animals know what they’re doing, without any human intervention or makeshift lawn-chair tents. I find his patience and passivity maddening, and even moreso when he’s right. And, after a week or so, the babies emerged from the nest and eventually moved on to live their rabbit lives.
Though I was a nervous, first-time bunny “mother” just a few months ago, when I saw the mama rabbit in the yard tonight, I knew she was there to feed. I watched her closely as she straddled the nest. Though it looked like she was just a rabbit hanging out in the yard, I knew she was directly over the nest and I could see little rabbit heads poking up from the nest, suckling at their mother. She was statue-like and only because I was aware of what was happening could I discern the little, bobbing ears in the very small space between her underside and the ground. She fed for a couple of minutes, then sat on her haunches and gave herself a meticulous bath, carefully packed the nest up and went on with her rabbit business, hopping gingerly under my fence and away.
And it was in these rare, quiet minutes that I was doing nothing except watching this mundane, yet fascinating, bit of nature, that I had the quick stab of melancholy that Mike isn’t here to share this with me. Of course, there’s always sadness that he’s not here to share the craziness of our kids, which, oddly, somehow makes it less noticeable (like a chronic ache or pain that you barely notice simply because it’s always there and you’ve learned how to carry on in spite of). And it’s quietly devastating that in these strange, random, unexpected moments – like finding a rabbit nursing babies in your yard – love demonstrates itself, and I am reminded of how much I miss him.