–Wherever you live, find your Rabbit Lane.–
(Photo credit: Jeanette Baker Davis)
Christmas day. A warm south wind had begun to howl in the early morning hours, the kind of wind that tears off siding and rips at shingles. A particular set of vulnerable shingles had flapped irritatingly above my bed all night long, as if under the sticks of a novice but indefatigable drummer. All day long the wind had blown, with frequent gusts that shook the house and trembled the floor under my chair. The bird feeders swung wildly on their wires, like marionettes under the hand of a demented puppeteer. We knew the pattern: the wind would blow and blow until the climactic dissonance resolved in a downpour of driving rain or sleet or snow. At 9:00 o’clock in the evening, Angie called us to where she stood by the front door opened wide to a world covered with new whiteness. The south wind had stopped, replaced by a steady northern breeze bringing the snow from over the lake. Brian, home from his first semester of college, announced happily that he was going for a walk. He bounded away with enthusiasm.
Weary from Christmas chaos, I nonetheless determined to venture forth. A walk down Rabbit Lane, at night, under the falling snow, is enchanting and not to be missed. Proceeding down Church Road toward Rabbit Lane, I followed Brian’s footprints. At the intersection, I saw that Brian’s tracks turned north onto Rabbit Lane. I was contented to see that his spirit had chosen the path that I have so often taken. Now my boots followed his. He had chosen to walk in the fresh snow, avoiding the twin tire ruts of a recently passed truck. I followed suit. The northern wind blew the soft snow into my face and eyes, so that I kept them pointed downward to the road. The crumbling black asphalt had disappeared under six inches of fresh white powder. In addition to the snow, the north wind brought with it a hint of salt from the great lake, like the winds of my childhood once brought to me the scent of the great ocean to the east.
A mile from home, I met my son on his return trip. We greeted each other simply, as father and son often do, and I turned to accompany him. The breeze had abated. We walked together under a softly glowing sky, neither saying a word to the other, both taking in the magic of the snowflakes settling upon the grassy fields, upon the black cattle, upon the tree branches, and upon us.
I looked up as we walked to see in the distance the icicle lights Angie had bought a few weeks before and hung from the rain gutter across the line of the front porch. She had not previously ventured to hang holiday lights herself, and now enjoyed them doubly for her successful effort. I remarked how that house sits on my small square inch of planet Earth. In that small space my wife and I have loved, worried, worked, hurt, and made love. On that small space we have conceived and nursed our children, taught our children how to live in this world and how to love and respect nature and other people. On that small space we have grieved over illness and death, sat with good books and good movies, worked pulling weeds, cutting firewood, and tending to animals. We have prayed together, fought together, cried together, sung together, cooked and eaten of the earth’s bounty together, cuddled kittens and puppies and buried sundry pets together. And we have walked down Rabbit Lane together.
My grandparents lived on a little dirt lane now known ignominiously as 4200 West. A bermed irrigation ditch ran alongside the lane. Every few years my family traveled 2,200 miles to visit. As a child in the early 1970s I loved to run down the dirt lane and walk along the slowly moving water beside my leaf and bark boats. The dusty strip possessed a subtle but real power to kindle the imagination and to incite healthy play. As the area developed, the ditch was piped, the land was paved, and the house my grandfather built in the 1930s was torn down to make way for a car dealership’s overflow parking lot. My grandparents are dead now, as is the lane, the ditch, the house—and the magic.
I suppose it is the destiny of Rabbit Lane, and all insignificant country roads like it, to have their ditches piped, their dirt asphalted, their edges curbed, their fields plowed under to make way for houses and offices and stores and warehouses and parking lots. Millions of such roads have disappeared unnoticed, unlamented. Still, I feel a sadness at the prospect of Rabbit Lane becoming a modern Rabbit Road. I know that I will have lost something, like the quiet, steady presence of a friend that moves away, leaving me lonely, or the finishing of a good novel that must now be closed and put on the shelf. When my Rabbit Lane is gone, might there be another Rabbit Lane remaining somewhere else? Might there always be a Rabbit Lane, surviving somewhere? Or will they all disappear, and with them, the magic that we almost didn’t know was there?
I believe that Rabbit Lanes exist in every community, all over the world: places where history and nature and transcendence converge to create special meaning within us. The importance and meaning of these Rabbit Lanes to individuals, families, and communities, while not screaming for attention, cannot be denied and should not be underestimated. We must find them. We must preserve them, if not literally, then in our lore.
New families have moved into the subdivision that was the old Norris farm, each to claim their share of life’s dreams. I do not begrudge them and their impacts on nature, on history, and on Rabbit Lane. After all, I have had my impacts, too. Instead, I rejoice in seeing these families, the parents with their little children, walking and riding together on Rabbit Lane, exploring, feeling, laughing, and soaking in the treasure.
(While this marks the end of Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road, I will continue to post my poetry and music related to Rabbit Lane, as well as my first writings about chickens and their coop, called Round Shells Resting. Thank you to all who have visited, read, liked, and commented on this blog. I hope my contemplations have contributed to your life.)
What an absolute treasure Roger. I have enjoyed reading every chapter, and have felt the great messages each had held. How fitting the timing of this post with the upcoming wedding of your son. I am certain that because of your love of Rabbit Lane, that your children’s eyes will find their own “Rabbit Lane” and they will pass teaching on to their children as well.
Thank you again for sharing with us the beautiful thoughts and images my friend.
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Thanks for being my friend as I walked this and other roads.
From Harvey Russell: Reading this and all the others of Rabbit Lane and surrounding places that you share with us leaves me with a touch of nostalgia and homesickness. I know that when Rabbit Lane is no more it will bring a great deal of sadness to me even though I have been away now for all these years. Your expertise causes me to feel like I am still there doing the same thing that you are witnessing.