Thursday, September 1, 2011

Morning Rain - Part 1

This is an excerpt from my book in progress, "Songs of Abundance and Beauty: The Stories of Josiah."

It started to rain last evening, right after the sun went down. We were all back in our barn so no one got wet, but we heard the noise of the rain on the roof, like many little rabbits thumping at once. We could smell the fresh smell of the rain and felt the cool, moist air coming in under the door. It reminded me of sweet grass and moss and tiny mushrooms, and I found it to be really pleasant. We all went to sleep to the music of the steady rainfall, and felt safe and content. At one point during the night we heard loud booming noises outside and saw flashes of blue and purple light, and some of the bunnies got scared and upset, but it passed quickly and we were left with the loud, angry noises fading off into the distance and being replaced by the soft purring of the rain.

The rain continued all night and morning came dark and gray. The nighttime just sort of blended into the morning and you couldn't really tell where one ended and the other began. The barn was unusually still for quite a while, with none of my rowdy friends waking me up and demanding to go outside to play. It was a quiet, restful and slow kind of morning, and we liked it.

One of the humans came in with our breakfast and I couldn't tell if they were upset or not. Sometimes on cold mornings when they bring us breakfast you can see that they are cranky and didn't want to do it. They sometimes mumble about staying inside their own barn and drinking warm stuff. I don't know, but that didn't happen this time. The human dropped off the food, petted and stroked a couple of the bunnies, cleaned up the mess that somebody made (but wouldn’t admit to), and then left. We knew it was one of those days when we would be by ourselves mostly and would not be able to go outside and play chase or nibble on plant leaves, but we didn't care. We had lots of food, were warm and dry, and we were all together! We knew we would have a good time.

Often during these rainy days one of the female rabbits will gather all us younger bunnies like me around her for a storytelling session. They take these stories pretty seriously and tell us that it is our rabbit history we are learning, not just listening to an entertaining tale, but we just like to hear stories. This time it was Auntie Jools who would be doing the storytelling. Auntie Jools is a big white bunny lady with red eyes who has been around for a long time. Everyone calls her "Auntie," just as we call all the other female bunnies like her. I think she is very nice and knows so many wonderful stories, but she will cuff you behind the ears in a second if you act up or make noise while she is talking. Sometimes a couple of the very youngest bunnies will fall asleep during the storytelling but Auntie Jools doesn't seem to mind. In fact she will let the littlest ones snuggle right next to her and listen to her heart beat while she talks. She knows that they will not hear every word she says but she doesn't get upset; she knows that just by being there they are learning important lessons nonetheless. She loves the little ones and will always give them kisses any time they want.

Auntie Jools got more comfortable, sitting down on the ground and allowing a couple of baby bunnies to cuddle in the big flap of fur around her neck. She lifted her head and said with her stern voice, "Who would like to hear a story?" Some of the bunnies are scared of Auntie and think she is mean, but I know she isn't, it is just her way of speaking. "ME! ME!" a bunch of us called out, "I want to hear a story!" She just looked at us and we quieted down immediately. Auntie Jools is one of those rabbits who doesn't have to say anything to get her point across.

I was sitting between my two best friends, Zachary and Constance, and I could feel their warm fur next to me. I felt completely happy right then and there, and I knew this is one of those times in life when everything is perfect and we really don't need anything else to feel totally satisfied. We all hunkered down on the ground and settled in for a good, long story. This is the story Auntie Jools told us on that dark, rainy morning:

A very long time ago, the world was a different place than it is now. It was a time when everything was clean and fresh and new. The air was fragrant with the aroma of many different flowers and every gentle breeze carried with it a new story of the richness of life. The rivers and streams were crystal-clear, and ran cold and pure. During this time, Mother Earth, Father Sun and Grandfather Moon existed in perfect harmony. There were many different kinds of animals that lived on Mother Earth, and all coexisted in peace and tranquility. Some animals ate other animals, as was their nature, but it was never done out of cruelty or malice. Everyone knew their place and the role they played in making the world a very lovely place to live.

We rabbits have always occupied a special place in the heart of Mother Earth. In fact, the original word for "rabbits" meant "children of earth." Rabbits spend their lives mostly in the bosom of Mother Earth, digging tunnels and chambers into her soft body. We are born there and return there over and over again. We come up to find food and water, of course, and to run and play in the warm sunshine, but we always come back to the cool, dark embrace of our Earth Mother to live our lives and sing our songs and have our babies. We are creatures who need to feel the firm presence of Mother Earth under our feet, and we are not happy unless we do. Life can get a little harsh for us sometimes, with floods or drought or freezing cold, but we know that Mother Earth will always take care of us. She holds us close and always makes us feel we are beloved to her.

Besides us rabbits, there were lots of other animals on earth. There were the creatures of the air, so many different kinds and in such vast numbers the sky was sometimes darkened with their presence. They rode the wind and played among the clouds high above. Some of these creatures chose to live on the water, and others had very beautiful and colorful feathers. There were many animals that lived under the surface of the water and we could sometimes see them moving about silently when we came to a pond or a stream for a drink. Still others crept and slithered among the grasses and bushes, and some lived with us in the earth. But everyone got along and the world was a place of peace and contentment.

Also favored among all animals was Wolf, a big, strong, noble animal with great skill and abilities. Wolf lived in the cold, austere highlands and mountains, many of them leading solitary lives. After dark we could often hear them calling to each other and speaking to Grandfather Moon, their faint and ghostly songs drifting in on the luminous night air. They sung of dreams and phantoms and yearning, and seemed to be constantly searching for something. Wolf was a very strong presence and a protector of all other animals. They made sure everyone behaved and if someone got a little out of control, Wolf would come down from the mountains and set them straight. In particular Wolf was our protector and made sure we rabbits were safe at all times.

Wolf had a cousin, named Dog. Dog was not as mighty and powerful as Wolf, and lived in big, gregarious packs of many families in the lowlands and valleys. They could be heard playing and chasing and shouting at each other, and usually made quite a ruckus for no good reason. What Dog lacked in strength and power it made up for in intelligence and sociability. Dog seemed to thrive the most when living among a lot of other animals where things were very busy and active.

Wolf and Dog both had another cousin, Coyote, who was a little bit different. Coyote could not make up his mind who he wanted to be or where he wanted to live. He was bigger than Dog but not as big as Wolf. He lived in small family groups who were moving around all the time, never staying in one place for very long. Sometimes they would come into the lowlands to look for food, other times they would go up into the mountains where Wolf lived. They could never seem to find enough to satisfy them and sometimes stole food from other animals. Coyote also sang songs at night, but they were songs of unhappiness and resentment and conflict. The other animals didn't know what to think of Coyote but understood that they were exactly as they should be, as Mother Earth intended.

One night something extraordinary happened. Grandfather Moon slipped into the shadow of Mother Earth and hid his face. A new star appeared in the sky with a long tail. It moved slowly across the black sky and disappeared into the east, where Father Sun brought the dawn every day. A few days later a new animal appeared. It was tall and slender and mostly hairless, and moved about on its two back feet, looking quite different and strange. It didn't look very strong or able to run very fast, but we all got the impression it was very crafty and cunning. It moved about timidly at first but then with more assurance, and it wasn't long before it was moving about with confidence. It called itself "Human".

To Be Continued...
click here for Part 2

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