Last Wednesday we returned from a short vacation and saw a wild bunny in our backyard through the kitchen window. This may not seem that extraordinary, but to me it was pretty exciting! We have been at this home for 7 years now, developing and maintaining our garden as a wildlife sanctuary, but this is the very first rabbit that has visited. He (or she) is a young bunny, and appears to be alone. He spends time under the giant blooming gardenia bush which is great shelter and I saw him nibbling on native geraniums and native St. John's Wort. I have not tried actively communicating with him yet, will probably do so soon, but I was a bit distracted by how utterly adorably this bunny is. I've seen him most mornings and he seems fine with being photographed from a short distance.
Even though I love all animals and believe they are all beautiful, I am not immune to cuteness. Bunnies are objectively ridiculously cute and I think this is evident by how often they appear in art & illustrations for children's (& adult) decor and books. Even the name sounds sweet. Rabbits also have symbolic associations with the faerie (elemental) realm. The times they are most active are dusk and dawn, which are considered "in-between" times and all "in-betweens" are doorways to the fae realms. The most popular example of this is "Alice in Wonderland" where Alice follows a rabbit and has great adventures.
Apart from the magical symbolism of rabbits and their beauty, I rejoiced at seeing one because the larger variety of wild animals indicates a more diverse eco system which is healthier since we are all interconnected. Neighbors have reported seeing foxes and more wild rabbits lately too. I am so grateful that we don't use poisonous herbicides or pesticides because I know our greens are safe for the bunny and everyone else to eat.
I am thankful because sometimes something as simple as a beautiful bunny sitting under a flowering bush at twilight fills me with such an immense sense of wonder. The feeling I got from discovering this bunny visiting (& possibly moving in) was magical in itself. I believe that for me that feeling of wonder is essential to continuing to see the beauty in life and taking a true breather from problems going on in the world. Wonder creates balance and makes our hearts stronger. Adults need wonder as much as kids do (if not more!) It's not only bunnies, I feel this when I see a lovely alien-looking praying mantis guarding our front door, when slugs move their adorable antennae, when mice hold food in their tiny paws, when ferns unfurl or when a seedling grows and blooms for the first time. I could list 100's of examples and sometimes when I am sad I like to make lists of all the "everyday" beings who gift me with wonder simply by sharing our garden.
Last week I was sitting on my deck early in the morning and I heard a beautiful sound while looking at the backyard and noticing bright red feathers behind tall grasses. For a moment I thought someone's chickens had gotten in the yard, but then I saw this gorgeous large pilleated woodpecker fly toward one of our pine trees and perch there for a moment. I took a lovely 20 second video because the moment seemed so magical. There was a squirrel on the tulip poplar tree which is entwined with the pine, and it was misty (rare in Georgia.) I recorded until the woodpecker flew to another tree and I posted the video on my facebook page as well as on a neighborhood page where people sometimes share this type of thing since we are fortunate to live in a neighborhood with mature trees and much varied wildlife. (The above photo is of a different pilleated woodpecker on a tree in our front yard a while back.)
As expected there were "likes" but then there were also some less positive comments. One person referred to the woodpecker by an expletive I won't repeat because he supposedly had pecked at their house. Another person said they were "not a fan" (?) and yet another, more kindly at least, with a smiley face emoji, said she loves them but draws the line at property destruction. I was fully prepared to have jokes made about the poor quality of the video (I didn't have a tripod) but sort of shocked that there would be animosity toward a rare beautiful woodpecker. This gave me pause. I considered the comment of drawing the line at property destruction, which I suppose sounds reasonable to most people, but I do not draw that line. I feel like having to repair a few holes on the side of the house or the deck is a very small price to pay for the privilege of living along side these amazing beings. I feel this way about all wildlife not only woodpeckers. Part of me also keeps thinking they were here first and we built houses on top of where their home was and now they have to deal with us in their habitat. The least we can do is care for them and protect them in our shared home environment.
I suppose everyone "draws lines" somewhere. I think it is helpful to pause and consider where our lines are and why. Do we feel like our property is more important than a living being? Is it money? Does money matter more? Or is it convenience? Do we draw the line at safety? When are we actually in real danger versus imagined danger? Which beings are "magical" and which ones are "pests?" What if it's a sweet looking rat gnawing on something in the shed? A mature tree casting shade where we would prefer sun?
We all make choices constantly that affect our environment. There is no way to avoid this, even if we are very careful. All we can do is our best, but I believe it is easier to do our best when we approach it from a place of love and compassion and awe.
Due to my connection with animals I am often forced to consider & reconsider choices, something that may have appeared simple ten years ago is more layered & complex now. I am in a human body too and I make imperfect choices. I killed a wasp once, probably about 12 years ago. She was inside our condo and I was afraid she would sting my cat kids. As soon as it happened I knew & felt I had done something very wrong. It was a choice made out of fear. I still carry the weight of taking that life. If I could re-do it I would have captured her and taken her outside. Which is what I have done ever since if one got in and what I have done with other insects for a very long time. So I suppose I was drawing the line at protecting my kids, but in retrospect I'm not sure they were in imminent danger. I still would protect my children from anyone, human or animal, but I hope that I would be more discerning about whether the danger was immediate and real or perceived. My lines shifted. Many insects suffer and die because of perception, whether they are poisonous or not. Having spiders does not mean we will be bitten by them. Often an insect will sting or bite out of fear too. It is all they can do to defend themselves and their young. It helps to imagine ourselves in their position, considering the size difference. What if a giant picked up our house & threw it in a giant vacuum? It sounds silly but we sweep & vacuum spiderwebs all the time!
If we can see ourselves in their place and allow heart based compassion rather than fear to guide our choices we have a chance at shifting where we draw our lines while still feeling safe and doing the least amount of harm possible.