Sorry. The Rabbit Died.

So, there’s a dead rabbit in our extended backyard.

I refer to this part of our yard as such because we live on a salt marsh and the actual back yard slopes downward and leads into the marsh itself.
(You would be correct in assuming–YES, we can see the ocean from both our backyard and our front yard. YES, it is nice. NO, you cannot come to visit and stay over.)
The winter storms this year were absolutely ridiculous, and even though it is now April, I do not fully believe it will not snow again. It is my hope that I will shed my snow anxiety around June-time.
As the first February storm truly began bearing down upon us, I peeked out the dining room windows toward our backyard. The snow was blowing horizontally. I saw what I believed to be a tree stump protruding slightly from the snow. I thought it a bit odd; I knew there were a couple of smaller stumps in the yard, but I couldn’t fathom why this one stump would be exposed.
I decided perhaps the wind had something to do with it. I closed the drapes and put on a sweatshirt.
The next morning presented a “winter wonderland”; drifts of snow, the likes of which I have not seen in decades (also? Snow days from WORK–I could have died). I wished we had purchased some wild bird seed or something to feed to the marsh birds and critters. Wild animals are wild for a reason and while I understand they were built to withstand nature’s harsh and bitter temperatures, in my heart I just know I am the modern-day incarnation of St. Francis.
Just kidding.
I don’t really believe in that malarkey–saints and such. Ha. Fairytales.
But. I do like to take care of all of the creatures who have a hard time fending for themselves in extreme weather.
I prepared a bowl of bounty for my marshland friends (just what the hell DO you put out for a red-tailed hawk, anyway? Seriously. I’m asking. We see Brother Hawk on the regular.) consisting of chopped apples, blueberries and dried bread.
I dressed myself in layers, pulled on my snow boots and laced them tight; added two scarves, an ear warmer and a hat. I marched myself  into the then-constant tundra, wading into the drifts.
I carried a Celadon bowl (that I made in grad school), brimming with treats.
I noticed a depression in the snow where I had seen the small stump the day before. Perfect. A bowl of goodies on a nature-made table. I set about uncovering the stump.
When I looked down at the depression in the snow, it registered that something wasn’t right. I saw what appeared to be a thick black antennae protruding from then snow. I thought of large insects with large antennae and large pinchers on their spindly arms and legs and shuddered.
That CAN’T be possible, can it? It’s fucking WINTER.
What IS that?
Is that…a whisker?
Then, the realization hit me. I had noticed rabbit tracks in the yard the day prior to the big storm and rabbit poops close to the house under the deck. Poor little bunny/ies must have been seeking shelter.
I was hopeful a rabbit had dug a den in the snow to use as shelter, but my sinking suspicion became hard fact as I dug further down into the snow.
One grey-brown ear.
Another grey-brown ear.
I uncovered this little creature’s face and then his body.
I pulled the rabbit from the snow as gently as one would handle a newborn infant and regarded him not only with wonder but with sadness. I had never held a wild rabbit that closely. Even though he was frozen solid, I removed my glove to pet his face and head. I apologized to him that I hadn’t provided a shelter for him and told him that I hoped he did not suffer…I hoped he just ‘went to sleep,’ as they say people who freeze to death do.
I wanted him to know that my consciousness recognized the passing of his consciousness.
I turned to look up at the house to see if my un-husband might be looking outdoors, and I lifted the frozen cottontail high above my head, just in case he was.
“Shit,” I thought to myself. “The dogs. Can’t have a dead rabbit in the backyard when you’ve got two dogs.”
Unable to dig a hole in the frozen (and heavily drifted) ground, I chose to dig a snowy grave for my friend, knowing, of course, that I would have to dig him back up after the thaw.
Fast forward to the last day of March.
For some reason, in the midst of a complete mental meltdown, I remembered the rabbit.
Had it melted enough to find him?
I set out to see. I needed to see.
I discovered his small grey-brown foot sticking out of the snow.
I began to exhume my small friend from his snowy grave, my mind completely clear (only moments before it had been filled with a toxic mixture of rage, sadness and self-hatred).
In that moment I existed only to dig this small corpse out of the snow.
I retrieved the small cottontail, and held him in my gloved hands.
His previous state of suspension had softened and the lower half of his torso was limp and lifeless. A small amount of blood had left his mouth and remained on the snow.
He smelled of decay.
I ceremoniously marched him to the end of the yard and stopped at the marsh.
I felt I should say…something. But nothing came to mind. Again I apologized to the small creature and hoped aloud that his flesh would nourish other creatures.
I then said the Lord’s Prayer, for reasons unknown to me except that it was a knee-jerk reaction from being raised in the Lutheran Church (Apostle’s Creed, anyone? Yo, I KNOW that shit.).
I wound up for the grisly pitch and sailed the small corpse through the air into the snow and salt water of the marsh.
As you are now, I once was. As I am now, you shall be. 
I don’t know why I thought of this little bunny during my psychological meltdown.
Perhaps I identify with him somehow.
Perhaps I will never know.

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