The puzzling tale of the alien rabbit and the hawk

Something happened in my backyard a while ago, and I’ve been thinking about it off and on ever since. My husband and I were sitting outside, late in the day, finishing dinner and polishing off the last of the wine. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a hawk down at the end of our lawn, struggling to lift a limp rabbit off the ground.

I was horrified. That year, for some reason, there were a lot of rabbits in our backyard, and I loved them. Yes, they got into our vegetable garden, but pish-tosh, what were a few tomatoes compared to the fun of watching these funny creatures, with their button eyes and twitchy noses, darting from bush to bush, nibbling the clover wherever they could find it? And the tomatoes. 

Now some foreign predator had swooped into our peaceful little kingdom and was making off with one of us, intending harm. I had to stop him.

No, no, my husband reassured me, I needn’t be concerned. That was not one of our rabbits. The hawk had brought that rabbit with him from someplace else and was now just taking a little rest. He’d be gone in a moment or so, taking the alien rabbit with him.

He was lying, of course. He didn’t want to deal with a crazy woman running into the tick-infested bushes trying to save a rabbit that was already on its way to bunny heaven. (I hope there is one.) He just wanted me to sit down and finish our dinner before the mosquitos got to us. And, dear reader, I did. My rabbits were safe, all was well. Bon appétit.

In my defense for believing this tale, which I now know was ridiculous, let me point out that I was born and raised in urban areas and have little experience with the ways of hawks and rabbits. That a hawk might snatch up a rabbit in one place, but need to take a rest before getting it back to the nest, seemed reasonable to me. It was like the older ladies I would see on our block in the city, who had to take little rests while carting their groceries home from the supermarket. Why wouldn’t a hawk do the same?

Even with that rationale, though, the incident kept gnawing at me. Finally, and belatedly, I realized that of course it was one of my backyard rabbits that was carried off in that hawk’s clutches. That’s nature’s way. It’s a jungle out there.

Still, I couldn’t get the incident out of my head. Something else was bothering me about it, and had been all along. Why had I been so upset, so ready to do battle, when one of my rabbits was threatened, but quiescent when I thought it was another, foreign, rabbit? Surely that other rabbit was just as adorable as my rabbits were, just as entitled to scamper through the clover looking for its dinner? So then why had I just turned my head, sipped my wine and gotten on with things when I thought an outlier was threatened, and not one of my own?

It’s an uncomfortable question. I suppose somewhere back in the mist of time, it was a good idea to be wary of foreign intruders into our territory, rabbits or otherwise. And yes, even today we have to guard against danger from without. Still, the image of the predator hawk and limp rabbit won’t leave my mind. And I can’t forget my own indifference. 

It’s a wake-up call. From here on in, I think I need to be more aware of the dangers facing all rabbits, mine and everyone else’s.

Marjorie Palmer is a part-time resident of Taconic, where she is a part-time writer.