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In the Eyes of a Cottontail

Written by Skylar King, 2022 Judea Garden Summer Intern

Allow me to show you my home. I live in a quaint hole beneath the ground, shrouded by tall grass and brush. My hole lies on the outskirts of a vast field, the grass spanning to far reaches to form a billowing sea of green. My hole is small and relatively uninteresting. It’s merely a hole, if you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all.
What should spark interest however is a place nearby, a very special and intriguing place home to nearly all of my life’s curiosities. I continually ask myself what it is or what it’s for and it has taken until now for me to have a guess at it. But for now, I choose to describe it.

Encased in tall walls is an expansive grid, each cell housing a different species of plant. I think it is its level of organization that I have pondered the most, at the very least the curiosity that came first. Nowhere else have I seen an arrangement in any way similar. In all the surrounding area, anywhere you look you see a disarray of growth, plants growing in any direction and place that they can. Here, however, everything is somehow so concisely confined, everything has a place.

All within the bounds of four walls, I’ve had access to a more diverse group of life than I thought possible. Walking down its paths, you see a variety of all shapes and sizes. Some climb obscure structures while others don’t. Some are left in tall metal cages while others are left to go where they please. Some of these plants take the shape of vines and scale the entire length of the wall while others form dense bushes. Regardless of their form, it seems everything here is right where it is meant to be, almost as if it was all planned.

Every year, as the warmer months progress, the contents of this space grow larger and larger. Every morning, as the sun rises, these contents bask in a blanket of light, proudly presenting all of the new growth and progression from the previous day. Spanning from spring to a little beyond summer’s end, you watch it grow to its peak, the place brimming with life as everything it has been working towards up to this point has come to a head, and as winter slowly approaches, everything is once more put to rest just for it all to be born again.
. . .
As I’ve spent more time here, I have made a new acquaintance. A very tall creature, they roam this place in the warmer months, taking what they want from it and walking where they please (it appears the obstacle that is the wall has no effect on them). They arrive on the majority of mornings at a consistent time and form a group that rarely changes. I see the same faces here nearly every day, some of them even returning through multiple seasons.

What’s interesting about them is that they seem to have immense control of this place, almost like they’ve learned to harness the growth of their plants. I think they are the source of its organization. Everyday I see them corralling the plants into their assigned spaces and removing ones that don’t fit in. A lot of the time they bring water to the plants when it’s been dry, almost like they’re feeding them to grow taller.

Every few days, they take the fruit from their plants. I assume they eat them, for that is the same reason myself and my neighbors do the same. It is with this observation that I am beginning to have a guess as to what they do. If I am correct in my assumption that they built and organized this place, then I imagine their purpose is to domesticate the life here so they could have nature’s products all within an arm’s reach. It’s fair to say this has been successful as it has done the same thing for me. I have all the food I could ever need in one confined space. It’s truly wonderful.

At first I had to be careful. I would only enter the space when they were not there through a convenient gap in the farthest border. I would walk its paths and snack to my heart’s delight, my favorite being these large red spheres that conveniently grow close to the ground in some places. I kept this up for a while, taking only what I needed and waiting patiently until my next opportunity to eat in private.

This patience quickly wore off, though, and I began testing my luck with the tall creatures. My aforementioned idea that they grow these plants for themselves stems from the fact that they seem to be pretty adamant in keeping me out. That would explain why the tall fences are there and why I was once chased by a thin one with dark, curly hair. We locked eyes as I was hiding behind one of my red spheres and it immediately bolted towards me, leading me into the depths of a bush along the fence. I assume it lost me from there as it left me alone after that. What’s more though is that the very next day I found a small metal cage with a single entrance leading to more of my favorite of their foods. The fruit sat atop a mechanism that surely closes the door if interacted with. I think they underestimate me.

For a while I was unsure about the tall creatures. How bizarre it is that they feel a need to confine all of foraging’s wonders into a single space and that they find that creating life itself to be preferable to simply taking what nature gives them. At first I was confused by their habits but I’ve become grateful for them. At first I was uneasy that they are able to harness nature in such a way. It felt a little unnatural until I began to appreciate it. By putting so much life in one space, they have created a home and resources for the excess life they seem to not have control over. Every time I’ve entered those walls, I see a number of my neighbors in the form of bugs and butterflies, mice and chipmunks, all benefiting from this place in the same ways that I have. It’s truly a hub of everything life needs to live.

What’s more that I’ve come to appreciate is the unique ways they interact. Sometimes they divide themselves to work alone but more often they team together, almost like they all have one communal goal they are working towards and understand exactly how to get there. I think that word, that word being community, serves as a good representation of how these people act. It’s not only impressive that they are able to work together in such a way, but also that they were able to come together with a single, unified goal, almost like they knew this place couldn’t exist with just one or two of them.

I find it interesting how well they work together and how much they seem to benefit from their time here. All of their time here appears to be joyful, always full of chuckles and grins. It’s with that that I feel they have been able to get more of this place than those like myself, the ones who graciously steal from them. They not only get the product of their plants, but a clear sense of pride that comes from that product. It is clear they rely on this place just as much as it relies on them.

Skylar King is studying creative writing at Hampshire College.


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