Chasing rabbits

Rabbits are peculiar in their significance to me. Born under the Chinese zodiac rabbit, supposedly I should be caring, calm and sensitive. “They also prefer to avoid conflict. In confrontational situations, Rabbits approach calmly and with consideration for the other party. Rabbits believe strongly in friends and family and lacking such bonds can lead to emotional issues.”

Sounds like a lot of people to me, but certainly I try to be as described above. Even so, I don’t breed like a rabbit, and while I attempt calm, the Scorpio/Aries thing conflicts.

Beyond simple symbolism, rabbits show up in my life in the damnedest ways. This is partly because Minneapolis, despite its urban commitment, doesn’t poor nearly as much concrete as New York or Chicago in pursuit of separation from nature. The city is green, most residents still live in houses and have neighborhood streets, and those of us who do live in apartments spend a lot of our time outdoors, especially in the parks and on the Grand Rounds. This allows for lots of wildlife encounter you might not get in cities from Chicago eastward.

This is also because evidently, I attract rabbits.

My first experience with an urban rabbit happened while living in the Warehouse District of Minneapolis. One day I was bemoaning my separation from anything familiar, only to be startled out of my funk by a rabbit crossing the street in time with the walk/don’t walk light. After that, bunnies became a familiar, almost relentless sight, and for a period of time I thought they were a bad omen. Rabbits appeared whenever my chronic urticaria found a new peak of torture for me. “I already know,” I’d say to the rabbits. “It sucks and I want to run away, too!” After all, when humans encounter most rabbits they are running – well, hopping – away.

In recent years, though, I’ve come to a new opinion. Thank Jimmy Stewart, perhaps. Rabbits, in their bizarre hoppity behaviors, don’t really run away from me. As you can see from these photos, they were willing to hang – admittedly, they had to after I used flash a few times as their nocturnal little eyes could only take so much light before brain freeze set in. The night I took these photos I followed them down two alleyways, and both rabbits stayed along the alleys instead of escaping me by bounding across a nearby yard or street. These bunnies guided me. Perhaps they guided me away from danger. Perhaps they just guided me onto a different path from my usual. The end result was that I arrived home safe, camera having captured some rabbity amusement.

A friend recently asked me about my take on rabbits, and it was shortly after I’d used rabbit symbolism in a personal, powerful way – and the symbolism was my own, not that associated with any tradition. Since rabbits appeared as a totem for me just as my illness took hold, I’ve come to see them not as bad omens, but as guides, that help us bound through our most justified fears.

So when I see a rabbit, I know it’s representing my fear – and telling me that it’s OK to run. I can’t fight everything that comes my way, and sometimes flight is the only answer. It also tells me that whatever happens, I will survive. That the survival instinct of flight is noble, because staying alive is in and of itself perfectly noble.

In Minneapolis, bunnies live everywhere, and they emerge at the oddest times. I figure if the rabbits feel OK about the place then I’m probably OK too.