Here we are in mid September and the first rains are beginning to fall, marking the end of our wonderful Indian summer and cooling the temperatures. As a runner I am happy for the change. It is amazing what a difference a couple of degrees can make in performance and how comfortable you are on a run.
I live on the west coast of Vancouver Island, and most times on my run I am apt to see different kinds of wildlife on my way about my route. The most common being deer, rabbits, eagle and vultures, I have even seen a bobcat one time. (What a rare treat!) So when I think about my last run it shouldn’t be any kind of a surprise I suppose.
I was on the start of my run up the hill. It is a long one, about half a kilometer at a forty-five degree angle, and I was about three fourths of the way up it when to my right I noticed a commotion going on up by the freeway. An elderly woman was at the side of the road doubled over beside her car and there were people surrounding her. I was trying to figure out what was going on and at the same time not run out into traffic, when I saw what had been the cause of the strife. A young female deer was lying in the grass not far from the woman and her car. Unfortunately it was a common sight along the city roads. I was glad it was lying still and no longer breathing, because there are times when reality is not so kind, leaving the animal and the driver to suffer. I hate seeing such things, clashes between nature and our encroachment upon it, but these days I am also surprised that there is not more of it. I saw that the others had the situation under control and ran on, thinking about mortality, our fragility, and the meaning of such things.
On the way back I passed an area where there are many rabbits inhabiting an area off to the side of the road. There must be forty to fifty rabbits amongst the briar and little forested area. People come and drop off apples, grass clippings and other yard waste for them to eat. Some people bring their children to feed them carrots. This is probably why the population has rocketed out of control. Or perhaps it is just because being rabbits, fertile is what they do best. Some of these rabbits are huge, the size of small dogs really, and I love seeing them on my run. A large grey one caught my eye on runs, it had white feet a white tail and I enjoy seeing its nose wriggle while it sat ridged trying to judge whether I was a threat.
I saw the rabbits on the side of the road first. There were about twelve of them all huddled close, looking at something on or across the road. I was too far away to see. As I got closer I saw what they were looking at. My grey bunny lay in the middle of the right lane of the road. Its front and back paws were straight across the road and made it look like it was in mid leap across the road when it had been struck. There was no blood, and if you were to glance at the animal and overlook the horrid stillness, you would have thought it was just down for a nap.
My eyes began to water. I couldn’t tell what had upset me more, the sight of my favorite rabbit lying still, or the sight of the other rabbits looking over at it. I wondered at their extent of comprehension of such things. Elephants understood death, even came back after years and mourned those that had passed before them. Could these bunnies, some so small and recent, understand even a sliver of what had happened? It must have had some sort of impact on them or why would they be huddled together looking at the dead rabbit and not moving? Even when I came up on the scene they didn’t scatter. I thought of the book I had read in my youth The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams, and a shiver went down my spine.
I continued my run, pondering the death along it. Was it the change in weather that helped end these two lives today? I know that all things must have an end at one time or another and it would happen when we least expect it just like the rabbit and deer had experienced. But even though it is a shared experience, a penance for life, it didn’t seem to make things easier. A thought provoking run for sure.