Mother Rabbit turned back to the path in the woods where the light poured like nectar, fresh and unfinished, over the bumps and roots and rocks through petals and leaves; weaving in and out of which was the spark of orange she’d been searching for earlier. She was about to bound after it when she heard the voice of old Aunty Felicity Fox calling out from behind her,
“Oh Ruthie, Ruthie Rabbit! Do stop Ruth, these old bones don’t move nearly as fast as they once did! I’ve got such news to share, so imperative . . . ah there you are, these old eyes don’t see as well as they once did either. Now then, I’ve just come to tell you how dreadfully greedy and gluttonous your children are being! Really my dear, I thought you should know how appalling their manners are, and I know, I know how terribly busy you are so I did what anyone would do given the circumstances you know, very delicate business and hush hush and all I told little Rose to always allways let guests go first, I whispered very quietly of course and the poor dear was a bit embarrassed . . . though you know how it is with youngsters nowadays, so sensitive to the slightest of criticisms, I mean to say I was one myself you know and my but how my good mother, god rest her soul, would poke her eyes at me, why she’d even pinch me if I behaved in such ways, and I always took it with such courage she’d say, such fortitude and bravery she was so proud, though I said to myself why I would never ever do that! So true to my word I was very discreet and very quiet about it but it had to be done, after all as I always say, it takes a whole village you know, a village to raise them, these youngsters, and that’s just what we’re here for!”
Here Aunty Fox finally stopped her monologue and caught her breath, straightening the feather in the cap on her head which was slightly askew from her endeavors to reach Mother Rabbit with her kindly news, then she continued, smiling as she spoke, “I just knew you’d want to know since you were so far away and distracted here in the woods, so of course I came all the way to tell you as you really ought to know these things for reference if nothing else, it’s so important to Know . . .. And my dear, lest you should starve . . . . though plump as you are there’s no danger there . . . we’ve set you aside some morsels on a grape leaf out of the way of the children.”
Mother Rabbit stared after Aunty Felicity Fox, marveling at her efficiency and who, having borne and delivered her well-intended bit of news, was already making her way back to the festivities pleased as fruity punch. Around her she could hear the trees chuckling and then a loud “Hrrummph” as Harold Heron flapped down from above, landing on a rock beside her.
“She’s a fine piece of work old Felicity, always going about looking for something to fix even when there’s nothing broken,” he remarked, “Has such a lot to say, even in her hey day when she was a vivacious vixen she had words for any occasion and sometimes for none at all! Indeed often her words don’t match her actions, for well I remember being invited to a supper of wild parsnip and minnow soup in her cozy little barrow one evening and would you believe, for all her talk about manners, she served my soup in the shallowest little dish ever. Me with my long beak, how was I supposed to drink from such a vessel as a bowl I ask you? And the whole while she talked and talked and I couldn’t get a word in edgewise to ask for something tall to pour it in! By the time she was done she had helped herself to my soup and lectured me on wastefulness on top of it all! That was back when by beloved Maude was alive and she said to me, Harry my dear you what you need to learn is the art of interrupting . . . . Maude was skilled at the ‘art’ as she called it but it just wasn’t me. I invited Felicity to supper afterward and while I entertained the idea of offering her up a pitcher of stew to see how she’d like it, in the end I realized that wasn’t me either, so there you have it Mother Rabbit, there you have it. Here, I brought you some tidbits from the tables.”
Ruth Rabbit took the sunflower seed cake that he gave her with a grateful smile and nibbled on it.
“Are you not a fixer upper then Harold?” she asked curiously.
He regarded her from above his long beak before answering, “My dear Ruth, if ever I found myself inclined to go about ‘fixing’ anyone in all my years here on this good earth then it is the humble work in progress you see standing before you.”
For a while they stood and looked through the window at the jamboree. It was teeming with life of all kinds; an unlikely gathering of people yet there they were feasting and celebrating together, the sounds emanating from them piercing the woods every now and then in an assortment of pitches and tones lifting up the leaves and whispering winds into a harmonic cadence . . . was this the very heart and soul of diversity bearing peace, she mused bemusedly, this very conglomeration of opposing natures coexisting side by side? Granted there had been a few heated arguments, even a hot debate between the imps that had resolved itself with a bang up row and laying on of hands which the human children had joined in, diffusing the fray with aplomb though the topic at the root of it was likely to be the source of tension later she suspected. Yet they were able to all come together . . .
“Well, I’m going to find those young ones now Ruth, do me a world of good to be with them while they gambol and tussle; takes me back to when I was a mite. I’d been an only child myself, always wished for brothers and sisters to play with so Now I’m taking full advantage of all your little ones to make up for lost time, going to give them rides on my back today, take them flying . . don’t fret too much my dear, just keep that inner compass of yours tuned and more importantly, remember to use it! These gatherings of yours give this old heron’s heart much joy to look forward to Mother Rabbit, much joy ” Harold Heron announced, enfolding her in his wings for a tight embrace before flapping away in search of Baxter and Pepita.
Turning back to her path again Mother Rabbit resumed her search for the orange blaze until at last, in a bright place where tiny blue flowers made their abode amidst broad leaves, she found it soaking in the sun quietly with it’s dabbed and daubed wings open to the sky, the squiggles hidden on the underside of the wings.
It smiled at her with its miniscule eyes before taking flight, coming to land on the tip of her nose; their breath mingling until they heard music from their hearts extending from wing to wing from leaf to leaf from branch to root to shoot to raindrop and bee hive from coconut to banana to night blooming jasmine to honeysuckle to bittergourd to maple and indian pipe to amanita to hummingbird and around as sparkly gems in magpies beak, nightingales song of freedom, parrots pretty polly birdie num num refrain, seagull squawking thanks to where dolphins dove out splashing pearls into the air caught up by whale sending them fountaining high then falling around sharks and rainbow trout in crystal waters where out of nearby caves bats took up the call, in signals and tiny motions from earth to sky in stream and pinecone winding it’s way to the river before the ocean bearing fairies from a mesh in the forest seen when the door cracks open for an imperceptible moment and Mother Rabbit asked herself, “Do I dare step through and discover what’s there? Am I equipped to navigate? Will the skills and tools I need be on the path itself?”
And while she pondered the questions, the transmission called her guests who responded by joining her and that is where Whispering Wind found her along with gnomes, goblins, fairies, imps of all color, Bella Black Snake, Bernadette Bear, Tommy Turtle, even Sharla Snail who inched her way up toward the congregation ever present, bearing her home upon her back::the vestiges of a shell from prehistoric times when even that spot of earth was once submerged and the questions unwound from the spirals she carried, outward in commas marking the open wings, openings on a blaze allowing possibilities from silently upon Ruth Rabbit’s nose; Butterfly bringing the Circle to where they all shared dessert.
Sally, Suzy, Lightfingers, Stella, and Whispering Wind had enjoyed a marvelous celebration and after drinking a final cup of dandelion wine, they set off a few firecrackers then climbed up onto the back of the luminous silver mare who gently trotted with them to the portal through which they returned to their homes; just as the evening star rose, a beauty mark illuminating the sky.
“Food is communion that erases all boundaries. When we gather around tables like spokes around a wheel, we draw each other into a sacred hoop that affirms us all in our humanity and deepens our awareness of the sacred nature of every breath, every word and every gesture. A chef is a shaman, a priest and an alchemist who uses fire to transform the base elements into the Elixir of Life. Cooking and eating binds us to ourselves, to each other, and to the sacred source from which all things come.” ~~Peter Bolland
Whispering Wind was very excited. Stella (the blue imp) had opened up many avenues in his life, one of which had been the ability to speak with animals. Stella had proved most helpful in the matter of the beetle infestation at Rose’s farm. It had turned out that the green imp he had chased had left behind the beetles, which were able to multiply when they were seen by non-imp eyes. Furthermore, the green imps had the ability to enlarge the beetles and then ride upon their backs, which they did:: when they were going to battle. The boy had learned from Stella that the green and red imps were allies and when she had seen the beetles she had been alarmed for it indicated that a beetle army was being raised and who would the red and green imps march upon? The blue imps of course for they had recently opposed the red imps in a council hearing on the matter of mining gems. Stella had called a flock of odd raccoony birds to Rose’s farm and the birds had set up residence there, keeping the metallic insects from multiplying into infestations of disastrous proportions. The birds would eat them down to just one or two and then leave them to grow in numbers before feasting on them again. Stella herself liked to snack on them from time to time and so she’d go over and crunch and munch with the birds, and they were happy, while Rose was marveling at this bit of good luck that had come her way.
He had made friends with the rabbit family that hung about with the chickens near the blackberry bushes, and Mother Ruth Rabbit had invited him to a Midsummer Evening Celebration, along with his friends Sally, Suzy, and Lightfingers. They had baked all day and were taking two cakes, for Ruth had asked that every guest bring their most favorite food to share. Now they were headed to the circle in the woods that Ruth had told them was the doorway to the party, and there it was! They entered and while it seemed as though they hadn’t moved, the world around them had changed. There was a luminous silver mare waiting to carry them to the revelries and Stella had opened her wings and flown off in a shimmer of mist to find her family, for Ruth had invited Everyone to this fête . . .
Mother Rabbit was in the woods where the creaking pines and groaning hemlocks grew, their branches spiraling up toward the sky; a stairway to heaven it seemed to her small eyes looking up so high. Sometimes a great blue heron or turkey vulture took respite on their limbs. Today they were simply outstretched and the birds were elsewhere dancing in the clearing. She’d been watching little Baxter Rabbit playing with his friend Pepita Puppy and standing beneath the boughs she had spotted something earlier, but what had it been? It had flickered past her dancing by the edges of her eyes in a show of orange with dark markings, little dabs and daubs and a squiggle or two. She was hunting for it while the great old trees watched Baxter and Pepita play, she knew they’d warn her of any danger for they were grand old sentinels these trees. Though it seemed like they didn’t say much they were quick to rustle and blow when they needed to. Baxter and Pepita were rolling about and scruffing up their fur in the pine needles and cushiony moss by the creek, taking turns to toss small twigs and pinecones into the flowing water::boats for the wee folk flying by to sit upon while the floaters carried them along and they brightened the waters with sparkle dust sprinkled from the elder wands they carried.
Mother Rabbit hopped along searching for the splash of orange when she heard the birch branches move ever so slightly, opening a window for her to look through where she’d left the revelries for this woodland foray with the children . . . she saw her older two, Rose and Ronald load up their grape leaf platters full to the brim with food from the toadstool tables bearing juicy blackberries, toasted walnuts, minted peaches, elderberry cordial, wild carrot jelly, sunflower seed honey bread, and succulent jewelweed salads amongst other tasty treats. Her families’ guests were waiting patiently, though empty plated, for the rambunctious bunnies to finish. Her nose trembled as she watched them and she was about to rush off in a mad dash into the clearing where she would knock the plates out of their hands, sweep them off their seats, and bark at them as loud as a bunny can bark,
“Guests first lads and lassies! Guests foremost, before all else! Guests before sense!! Guests, guests, guests, it’s all about guests!!”
Why she’d grab up a spoon and heap food onto all the guests plates in piles and piles . . . she was about to go ahead in this pell mell hurry scurry fashion when she heard the cool airy voice of Birch penetrate her reverie:
“Leave them for now Mama, relax! What’s done is done and cannot be undone, their plates are full and look they’re even seated, and none are the worse for the wear. Attend to it later if you must, you’ll know when the time is ripe; now is simply the time for seeing that change is on the way.”
Mother Rabbit breathed deeply and felt her panic subside.
“You’re right Birch whatever got into me?!? After all, it isn’t the end of the world is it, if they’ve gone first? Proper etiquette isn’t observed all the time, right on time, ding dong, hup to march past, to begin with! Who in the world is born knowing such things anyway? And what makes right behavior something vaunted? Does it apply regardless of the circumstances in life, fixed as an unbreakable world-shattering rule? It used to be the young ones were served and seated to get them settled; they’re just doing as they’ve always done!”
“Hmm”, said silver barked Birch with a touch of amusement, “You did get in quite a tizzy Mother Rabbit! Do you know the tale of the one eyed giant? He lived long ago and I heard the tale myself through the grapevine as it were; it was told that he kept quite a tidy food-packed cave on an island somewhere, well stocked it was. One day he returned to find thirteen men feasting on his stores, imagine his fury to find them not only inside his cave but wining and dining on the fruits of his labors! He rolled a rock over the cave mouth to keep them in, helped himself to two as a treat, and decided he would punish them by keeping them as food.
Well, the men wouldn’t have any of this and the next day after he’d eaten two more of the crew he got into talking with their leader who tricked him into drinking a little too much. The men then drove a spear through his one eye, blinding him. They tied themselves to the underbellies of his herd of sheep while he stumbled and fell asleep. When he let the sheep out to graze later he felt their backs to make sure his captives weren’t making an escape atop them, but he didn’t feel their undersides and so the remaining men got out with their lives though not before their leader boastfully shouted his true name to the giant, “Odysseus I am who bested and blinded you!” They sailed away on their ship then and were later plagued by the giant’s father, Poseidon, who ruled the seas and was enraged at what had been done to his son.
Now, the men claimed this was fair for Polyphemus, the giant, had broken with the rites governing hospitality in their perspective, although as far as he was concerned those rites did not apply to breakers and enterers. Who’s right, who’s right wrong? Pick one, the other or both to champion, whatever your choice is it is in common agreement in all far and wide flung parts of the world that there are conducts governing hospitality, which your children have yet to learn and perhaps that is what you were het up about Mother Rabbit?”
“Yes, I suppose so, now that you mention it Birch, it could be just that”, she said slowly, “There’s so much to pick and choose from in life and sometimes it can be both cumbersome and overwhelming to sort through what to pass along and what not to! But it’s true, there’s a time and place for everything and I’m most glad that I didn’t go leaping off like I was imagining, why that would have been quite truly a display of gross misconduct!”
She giggled until her giggles turned into laughter and Birch chuckled with her, his chuckles rustling up her laugh and tinting his leaves a slight golden yellow color hinting at the autumn days ahead.
there is no comma no question here
for these are no punctuation marks you see
those dung loving relations are near
under leaves taking tea
these their sun loving cousins flutter
visiting flowers with cushiony heads
wings and petals move to utter
words vibrating riverbeds
the garden has space to fly or rest
vast are the notes to harmony
when each is attuned to what key fits best
dissolving into the boundless sea
Sugar Plum went inside her house, hand in hand with Whispering Wind.
“I believe you lost someone Wind”, she said leading him into her cozy parlour.
Seated on the embossed velvet upholstery of a rosewood chair was the blue imp in her blue tutu. She looked forlorn and was fiddling with her blue crown, which was on her lap. Her tail hung down to the ground. She looked up when the two of them entered the room and at the sight of Whispering Wind her face lit up and she jumped off the chair, leaping across to throw herself around his neck.
“Beautiful boy! You came for me! I got lost and couldn’t find you, it was terrible and scary, but now I’m so happpppppyyyyy, oh I could just die of happiness!” she squealed.
“I found her wandering about the peaches, they were blue, and she was in quite a state”, Sugar Plum said, “I brought her back and she told me all me about your adventure, it sounds like you made her a promise Wind. Do look after her, she’s a guest in our world you know.”
Whispering Wind blushed. “Er yes well, I was so excited to be home I suppose I uh, sort of misplaced her”, he said rushing on, “I’ll be sure to keep an eye on her!”
“Yes see that you do, who knows what will happen with imps on the loose here! Now I have something else for you, I picked this up on my travels through the Elfin country,” she handed him a parcel wrapped in dried grape leaves tied with grapevines.
He looked surprised and took it from her thanking her as he did so. The blue imp was still hanging on to him so he set her down on the chair and opened it up curious to see what was inside. His eyes grew round as saucers when he saw what it was: a beautifully engraved oak disc with a loop of leather hung from a cord of braided vine. The carvings were of an oak tree with acorns and leaves, and wrapped around the tree was etched a grape vine also with leaves and clusters of fruit hanging off the branches. Looking closely he saw eyes in some of the fruit and nuts. He ran his fingers over the polished wood and felt a slight indentation with his thumbnail; he pressed it and a bright beam flared out of the fruit. He was startled! Sugar Plum chuckled.
“Wow Sugar Plum, this is awesome! I love it, thanks!” he said, giving her a hug, “It’s going to be great in the dark, thank you so much!”
“Well it’s getting dark already so you’d best be on your way now”, she said, “Perhaps I’ll tell you the story of where that came from another time”.
He put the necklace over his head and felt the disc settle on his chest. It felt good. He moved toward the door then stopped and turning around, he picked up the blue imp who was falling asleep in the chair. He smiled at Sugar Plum and winked, “You thought I’d forgotten her didn’t you! Heheh!” Then he walked out where the sky glowed freshly ripened peach smells on the cool air and headed on home.
“Rehmat had been a blackened one, as black as her jet colored hair and coal dark eyes which she could flash, fly sparks from, and sizzle at will. Disgraced, fallen from grace::a kari is what her people called her where she lived in a remote dusty community. It was ruled by a council of elders representing the various clans that made up her tribe. They governed over disputes and daily matters. She had dishonored her clan by not only falling in love with a man from another tribe but she had made it publicly known by marrying him without the approval or consent of her elders. Worse, she had already been betrothed to another at the age of 5. An old warty man of 68 years whose breath stank and who had spittle dribbling out the sides of his mouth when he spoke. He was wealthy however and owned land of his own, she would be his youngest wife as he already had 2. When she came of age at 13 he was in his seventies and his sideways glances, oily muttony lips, and shiny bald pate were thoroughly repulsive to her! She had stormed and fussed and eventually her family had renegotiated the marriage terms and delayed the ceremony till she was 16, an unusual event that had caused them difficulty but they had done it nonetheless for she was stubborn as a mule. And then she had shamed them all with her defiance!
Her ‘fiancé’ had declared her and her husband adulterers, not only both their families to be dishonorable but both tribes too, demanded his full share of dowry, and further insisted that the two be killed in the tradition of karo kari to set right the heinous wrong that had been hurled at him! Her outraged brothers, seven strong, had assaulted her husband’s clan and demanded that his brother do the right thing by avenging this dishonor to all of them. So it was that one day when she was in the fields harvesting mustard, her husband was dragged away from his work tending the cows and beheaded by his own brother with hers as witnesses. Then they came for her. As fate would have it, she got word of this from a sympathetic relation and gathering her meager belongings into a bundle, she fled.
Her own brothers and her murdered husband’s brother hunted her for months. From village to village she’d go with one thought on her mind, that of the hunters finding and killing her. Her attention was constantly fixed on being found, being discovered, and she’d seize up with terror, panic. Before long she’d be running again for they were hard on her trail and determined to avenge the clan’s honor and restore the tribal reputation. She kept moving from place to place, on donkey carts, buses, trains, camels, and on foot. By whatever means she’d eventually leave where she was for she was hunted, marked to be murdered. When she reached the city by the sea she looked for employment making flatbreads in the homes of the elite, who seemed incapable of cooking for themselves yet were dissatisfied with her thick wholesome toothsome efforts. She found that they were generally a dissatisfied lot, irrelevant and irreverant of bread. She’d tell them bluntly, for she was very direct in her speech, “Look I’m kari, wanted, predators will come looking for me, jackals, blood suckers, and hyenas, and I might not come to work then but this is my life, you should know this about it”. She got some jobs, before long she’d be off; mostly the doors shut in her face.
Then one day she knocked on the door of a young woman. A divorcee with two daughters, she was of the fighting sort. She gave Rehmat a floor to sleep on and a kitchen in which to cook, fresh clothes and shoes to replace her torn worn ones, and four square meals a day plus tea and biscuits. She couldn’t believe her luck. It was there that she had a thought: What if she stopped thinking about her menfolk? Dropped them from her spectrum of attention? Gave herself up entirely in surrender and submission to life, to what may come or not come? What if she lived as though she wasn’t hunted and didn’t run? She decided she’d give it a try after all death came to everyone and she wasn’t going to die without having lived first! What had even made her think she could outrun death in the first place? She’d loved and that love was with her even if her husband’s body was gone, she knew what it was to live and love and be loved. So what was she running from? Suddenly she didn’t know but her life changed after that.
The woman she worked for learned that she could stitch and embroider, and there was no end to the jobs she had coming her way! And she was paid for her work! She had no need for money as her day to day was taken care of, so she saved. She saved and saved and the years rolled by. Where her brothers went to she never knew nor did she find out, as they didn’t come for her, neither they nor anyone else, and for that she was grateful. When she had saved enough she bought a small place where she established a safe house for other runaways, girls being sold into prostitution or arranged marriages against their will, abused tortured women, hunted women, women whose husbands no longer wanted them and would kill them to be rid off them, women who wanted to live a different life than the one chosen for them, wanted different lives for their children, and so many women came. Most were from the rural areas but some were from within the city too.
Her employer invested in her venture and backed her with the protection she needed to run such a place in that city, which is where I met her for she was successful as you can imagine. She taught these women the skills she had and they in turn taught the ones they had and so they rehabilitated one another and earned their living through the talents they discovered they had, making everything from potholders to quilts to clothes to dolls to tea cozies to song and dance. Together they forged independent new lives and identities for themselves and the children they may have brought with them, enabling and empowering one another in the community they’d created. They were like phoenixes rising; though some did disappear, whether they ran away or were found, who’s to know. As for Rehmat, lined as her face was she was beautiful and it shone out of her easy smile and sparkling eyes. She had taken it upon herself to ‘educate’ the young men in the area in matters of the heart and the art of love so that they may be better men than the ones they had all fled from. Besides the service, as she called it, that she was doing to womankind, she herself was lusty and nubile so it suited her too, after all, she’d say while buttering flatbreads, what’s bread without a bit of honey and cream?”
Here Sugar Plum stopped and drank from her goblet, the ice had melted and rose petals floated on the water. She noticed Whispering Wind on the porch steps and smiled.
“Ah Whispering Wind! Have you been here long?”
Sally and Suzy jumped to their feet and hugged him with happy squeals. He hugged his friends back and gave Willow the blueberries.
“Sorry I’m late with these Mum, I got distracted by the beetles . . . did you know Rose, they’re in the blueberries too?”
Rose sighed, “We were just talking about that . . .”
“You were?” he asked.
“Hmm, yes, well I’ll be going now, so much to think over ”, she said getting up, “Thank you Sugar Plum”.
“Always a pleasure dear, do forgive an old woman her ramblings, something about those beetles had me remembering Rehmat”, said Sugar Plum as the two women shared a long hug.
“Are you joining me Wind?” his mother asked also standing, and Belinda motioned her daughters to join her as she too rose to leave.
Sugar Plum gave Whispering Wind’s hand a squeeze and said, “Stay a bit longer Wind, I have something for you.”
He shook his head at Willow, and watched his mother walk back home, with Rose and Belinda. Sally and Suzy skipped ahead of them, and he wondered what Sugar Plum had for him.