I’ve been seeing wild rabbits everywhere, in people’s gardens, at the side of the road, emerging from woodland. None of them have been white or have caused me to fall into a pit and hallicinate so I think I’m safe enough 😉 . The rabbits I’ve encountered have been small, brown, lively and endearing. One, that I spotted in my mother-in-law’s garden was enthusiastically chomping on grass, communing with birds and generally making himself at home. The fact that this summer breed of rabbits are so tame is charming but also makes me worry that they may get attacked by predators.
I suppose there is nothing anyone can do to stop forces of nature. All we can do is ensure that we are welcoming to wildlife and do not obstruct the natural order of things. I can’t help thinking of Watership Down, that epic tale of rabbits fighting for their lives. The drama and the emotion have stayed with me ever since I read the book aged ten. When my niece was old enough to read the story, I bought her a copy hoping that she would experience that same connection with the characters, their dilemma and their bravery in seeking a solution. I believe she did, as she names it as one of her favourite books.
For those of you unfamiliar with the plot, a group of rabbits run for safety after a member of their community: Fiver has a vision of their burrow being destroyed. His brother Hazel has to take responsibility for the group, leading to personal growth and strength. Along the way they must counter the human capacity for destruction and corruption within their own kind. Above all they must find a way to increase their number in challenging times so that their efforts will not have been in vain.
The shadow of death is never very far from the proceedings, indeed it is embodied in the shape of a spirit rabbit called El-ahrairah who appears to any rabbit nearing the end of his days and accompanies him or her into the next life. I found the inclusion of this character very moving. Richard Adams reminds me of C. S. Lewis in his endeavours to give the animal world something to believe in. The message is comforting and very powerful. I would say that Watership Down is one of those chidren’s books that adults could learn a lot from. I’m now wondering where my own battered, beloved childhood copy might be . . .
In the meantime I will continue to rabbit-spot and delight in the hopeful, bounding movements of these creatures as they go about their business and bring light into these murky summer days.
Picture sourced at: http://www.thamesvalleybirds.co.uk/general-wildlife-photos/3116-wild-rabbit.html
Wild Rabbits with Memories of Watership Down.