There’s a rabbit in my yard and he has eyebrows. A dark patch of fur rises above his eyes in a comically inverted V, giving him a quizzical, bemused air. I have been following him again today as he goes about his routine. I trail across the morning room windows, enjoying how the lead glass casts rainbows on his sleek fur as he enjoys an early morning snack under the boxwood hedge. I use the edge of my flannel nightgown to polish a square of glass and press my nose to it, flaring my nostrils in time with him. He raises one eyebrow and I wonder what I have communicated to him as he moves on to a patch of clover under my sycamore tree.
He’s not the only rabbit in my yard. In the last month, five rabbits have staked their claim but he is the only one with eyebrows. The colony rotates through my tiny Lakewood yard like livestock in a pasture. Dawn is spent on the tree lawn, shifting mid morning to the front yard, followed by a lunchtime siesta under the hedge. Their afternoons are spent in my backyard eating, playing, making new baby bunnies, sprawling for hours asleep with ears tipped toward the house and bellies pointed to the sun. Twilight sends them hopping between yards, visiting the neighbor rabbits and no doubt comparing notes on their newfound freedom.
My windows are hung with shutters usually kept closed to thwart prying eyes, but nowadays the only prying eyes are mine and I’m inside. The streets and the sidewalks are empty. So I throw my shutters open to the rabbits and wonder if they know that they are the new clock I set my day by.
The pile of papers on my desk plead for attention but I tiptoe past and kneel by the window to watch one of Eyebrow’s girlfriends make short work of a dandelion. Her tummy is full of spring greens and a new generation of timekeepers. She seems utterly unconcerned by the raccoon on my neighbor’s porch roof. I look up and watch the plump, masked mother wrestle a protesting baby raccoon into the hole she’s made under the eaves.
Sunday, while I was placing strategic piles of blueberries in the rabbit rotation, I mentioned the raccoon issue to my neighbor across our porches. We are fortunate in Lakewood that our porches are a perfect social distance apart. “Oh, I know,” she called out. “She has the worst time getting those babies down to sleep. I should call an exterminator, but I don’t have the heart to.” She shrugs and we both retreat into our separate houses, both of us now all too familiar with the value of sanctuary.
I have a pile of books to read, as towering and as demanding as the papers on my desk. “You must be loving this,” my friends say. “All the time in the world to write and read.” I tell them those endeavors will have to wait because the shy groundhog under the porch across the street is taking a nap under the lilac, and between her, the rabbits and the groundhog, I don’t have much time.
My dogs don’t seem to know what to do with these bold rabbits. They run out to do their business several times a day and carefully skirt the eyebrow bunny and his gang. Once, they would give chase and send them back into hiding, but now the side-eye of the rabbits sends the dogs quickly back inside, the tables turned. Rabbits 1. Poodles 0, a power shift between the wild and the domesticated. Strange times indeed.
My house is a mess. One of the dogs is slowly destroying a pillow I bought just before we all retreated into our homes and I can’t be bothered to stop him. Bits of fringe and fluff dot the floor in my living room like dust rabbits. My cousin up north, where things are worse, called today and asked if I’m spring cleaning. So much time on my hands, an actual governors order creating all the time in the world. I demur and tell her about the new inhabitants of my street. Five bunnies, a raccoon family, and a bashful groundhog.
In the early days of this new life indoors, robins made a nest for the third year in a row on top of the shoestring power lines that run from my house to the garage. In years past, I asked our gutter cleaner to carefully remove it before they’d laid their eggs, afraid of a fire hazard. This year, I let them be and flip the breaker on the garage, just in case. Today, there are three fledglings demanding the attention of one harried mother and making short flights from their nest to the porch railing and back again.
On March 2, 2020 I was on the Quileute reservation in Washington State in a remote cottage on the beach. I saw on the news that a virus that had seemed so safely an ocean away was now only miles away. And so I left one isolation for another and came home to Cleveland. That was ten weeks ago. Today is May 12, 2020. They say they are opening the country up today. Opening it up to what? I ask Eyebrows. He ignores me in favor of the clover.
The rabbit is used to me now and based on our conversations through the window has decided I’m not much of a threat. I watch him doze on the overgrown lawn and wonder how many times he has watched me from the safety of a hedge, maybe hidden under this very porch, burrowed in last autumn’s leaves. He nibbles on some grass and raises his eyebrow at the antics of the fledglings and I wonder how his children will remember this time of reprieve, this season of their day in the sun.
(this piece was originally published by Literary Cleveland in Scene Magazine as part of their May 12th project)