Thursday, March 13, 2014

A Quilt of Moments-Between-Words: Newt-Track, Orange-Gold, Rabbit-Heart

Forgive me, dear readers, for my absence of almost a whole moon here! It has been one of the busiest writing months I've ever had, with three projects all going full-tilt at once, and so the scraps of time between that I've had I've spent outside, away from the crafting of words and the glow of this screen. These photographs below are the (somewhat disjointed) quilt of stolen moments between the pen-scribblings, the red notebook rapidly filling up to full! And in the midst of them is a wee surprise, a being who has stolen my heart, and will steal yours too, I daresay— and who also accounts for my absence here, as I have been writing beside him, out in the garden sun, beside the bloomings of all the plants brought back to life by the rains. 

One of the greatest medicines for my heart, as you well know by now, is to go out searching for the pawmarks of the wild animals of these hills. This can be difficult when there is no rain, and while of course my anxieties surrounding our drought had to do with more "important" matters than the pawprints of coyotes, I will admit to you that I was quite beside myself, imagining the trails cracked and dry for a whole year. So when the rains came at last, I was out on hands and knees. These prints are all from a single morning, and all probably about that fresh (between the previous midnight and dawn). The above coyote-print has a curious, slightly smudgy shape to the bottom left of its metacarpal (heel) pad. At first I thought this just had to do with the mud, but I later began to realize that it was a signature of sorts, a peculiarity to this individual.

Here he is again (dead center), crisscrossing the trail sometime probably near dawn. There were several separate coyote trails, distinguishable by the size and shape of prints, and given that a few weeks ago was the height of courting season, I and my tracking companions wondered if we were seeing some flirtatious frisking in those giddy, zigzagged prints.

In his more staid manner ("his" is a guess—the metarcarpal pad is quite fat, as befits a male bobcat), a bobcat crossed a more shaded part of the trail, from the creek up through a blackberry thicket and into the quiet of the oaks.

At last, the dear newts were out, dragging their swishing tails as they made their way, leaving feathery calligraphic trails, from their estivation burrows in the hills to their mating-creeks.

And even the little brush rabbits seemed not to mind the mud, bounding about the edge of the trail, not far from the coyote tracks, in perfect rabbit-leaps. I've read that Celtic peoples once read the tracks of rabbits for divination; I wonder what these trails told.

And smallest but certainly not least, a tiny harvest mouse went bounding through a mud-patch just before it became puddle. Those pawprints are no larger than my tiniest pinky nail in diameter!

After a rain, when the trail is a slate to be written upon by the paws of animals, it can seem as though everyone is out at once, in a great festival upon the path! But instead, it is a tale to be read in layers, brush rabbits venturing out to nibble sweet grasses when the coyotes have passed, newts not bothering who is nearby, as their skin is incredibly venomous, rival male coyotes avoiding each other or marking territory just after the other has gone. I like to lay my fingers in a track; for a moment, and only sometimes, I get a little flash in my imagination, travelling in a brisk coyote side-trot at dawn, air fresh, coat warm and sensitive, the world a tapestry of wildly vivid smells, my body so deep with sensation, it feels like my heart itself has a nose and ears and eyes. Then the feeling passes, and I am there again with my finger inside a muddy pawprint, and I am full up to the brim, and I wander home, where the lemons and oranges are heavy upon the trees in the garden, winter-sun incarnate.

Up in the lower folds of Mt. Tamalpais across the Bay, where we spent a week housesitting for my parents, a new storm rolled through, and left the fresh-bloomed Indian warrior flowers (pedicularis) wet and glowing. Oh, what strong beauty they possess! And to see them come up at last, after this dry winter of doubt, and visions of a desert land-- this is a balm for the heart.

The madrones glistened like muscled arms in all the wet...

... and my parent's hound, Louis, reveled as I did in the puddles and the damp grass.

I went up the mountain to greet the rain, and I found spring there too.

The star lilies, early bloomers, where open like great candles lining the trail, and the first lips of the irises had just begun to unfurl.

They seem to release Spring herself from their centers, as if she cannot really arrive in full, until they are here, impossibly purple, impossibly soft.

And then the gentle spirit of spring really did arrive, at least in my own heart and soul, in the form of Hawthorn, our new baby angora rabbit.

I named him thus, that he might be strong of heart (for the hawthorn is a great and gentle cardiac tonic), and sweet of heart too.

But as it turns out, he is Heart Medicine incarnate. He is Hawthorn, Balm for the Heart. Hawthorn, keeper of the sweetness of spring, and also keeper of the great old wisdom of rabbits, ears furred to the sound of every bird. Suffice it to say, we are all completely smitten around here.

He is only two months old, but I had to given him his first shearing before I managed to take very many pictures, so above he is a raggedy-rabbit, in his funny haircut. Below, you can see his fur in its full sweet fawn-colored glory.

Simon, Simon's father and I built him a hutch in the weeks leading up to his arrival, a hutch under a black walnut tree, and with a good sunbathing beam right through the middle.

Every day I sit with him in the garden and write while he leaps and naps and feasts on the tender grasses.

There is much to say about the deep magic of rabbits, about the process of transitioning him to an all-natural (pellet free) diet of only fresh greens and herbs and weeds and hay, as all healthy wild rabbits eat, about the softness he has brought to my heart. But you will hear much of him in the coming months, I can assure you. He has already become my companion of-the-word, and I have no doubt he will be making his way into my pennings soon enough, as well as my spinning wheel!

For now, you can find me often as not in the garden, with my notebook, finishing up tales (most currently the Leveret Letters) and watching him grow, learning the Way of Rabbit.

Now, the rained-on garden is a riot of color, as you can see from my birthday-wreath of flowers gathered yesterday morning and woven together here at the base of our candelabra, just like this little quilt of my Moments-Between-Words.

Each time I step from the page to the growing, fresh-aired, wet or sunny or starry world, be it in the garden or up in the hills, I am brought further into the great old Web of Things, where all of our days and nights, our work and play and stress and sweetnesses are held. I was about to write that for me,  the making of stories, the stringing of words, is like those spider strings above, and the moments I move outside to greet the wild world of sidewalk-dandelion, bewick's wren and redwood forest alike, are those beads of dew between. But then I realized how wrong a statement that was! It is our "work," our "creations," the way we shape our human days and lives, that are the dewdrops, and the spiderstrings are the more-than-human world that is always holding us, whether we remember it or not.

I'm glad to say, I think dear Hawthorn, he is one of those spider-strings, leading me ever deeper into the sweet animate world.


  1. Lovely quilt, and such lush and beautiful spring pictures. I have a little silver furred friend like yours, named Vega, because she is a creature of the stars. Looking at your sweet Hawthorn makes me all giddy - we have decided to visit 'the Milky Way', so soon we shall have more tiny fluffy bunnies.

    1. Oh so sweet! Vega! What a good name. More bunnies... oh dear. It is addictive I think! We've been talking of the same. xo

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  3. I was transported to a dreamy world while reading this beautiful post! Am fascinated by your tracking tales. Hawthorn is just the sweetest. Thanks for sharing <3

    1. Thank you so! He is the sweetest, I am totally in love. As I am with those tracks of the wild ones...!

  4. Animal companions enrich our lives so much, and Hawthorn is a lovely addition to your blog and by extension, to the days of your readers, too! Such glory is spring in California, and so very early to a northern girl who lives in a place with frosts into May. But the other animals here have known it was spring here for a while, and my dear kitties are already shedding their winter coats.

    1. Yes, it is full on spring here, so warm and sweet-smelling. And I agree, Hawthorn has brought so much new tenderness to my life, I can hardly believe it! xo

  5. oh, Hawthorn!! his sweetness comes through so strongly, and i think he might become quite distinguished as he grows into those sideburn or jowl-hairs! i adore the delicate fawn colours like his. what a glorious and most fortunate boy and mama!!