March 22, 2020 The Daily Sip
Yesterday I went to my favorite meditation spot – a field by my house on the same cliff on which I live by the Salish Sea. It is an easy place from which to see whales passing by, seeking Ghost Shrimp; and Orcas seeking salmon. It is halfway between my house and pottery studio. The field, like all of the village of Langley, on Whidbey Island’s southern end, is full of bunnies. Black, tan, auburn, white, brown, mottled…there are so many gorgeous, adorable rabbits. And because the sea keeps our climate temperate, it almost always feels like Spring – warm but with a chill that keeps the daffodils at full-mast. I love this place, but I miss Kai-the-dog who loved it too.
A long block away is the Island County Fairgrounds, ground-zero for fun in late July. Families wander eating funnel cakes and corn-dogs, listening to music and playing games. If my church is the Saturday Outdoor Market in Bayview, then my Cathedral is the Island County Fair.
Back at the turn of the previous century, about the 1920s, the Fairgrounds were every bit as active in July as they are today. The story goes that one of the games was a bunny race. Children paid a price, got a baby bunny and let it go in lines every 15 minutes to see who’s won. Each child could keep their bunny! Problem was, parents did not want another mouth to feed and unlike my own Grandfather during London’s Blitz, were unwilling to traumatize their child by making supper of it six months later (although I bet they thought about it…) So children, wailing and sobbing, had to let go of their baby bunnies by the car as the family piled in, sticky and exhausted, to make their way back to whichever Island they came from. The result was that over the course of five days, thousands of bunnies were released into South Whidbey Island. Today, one can see the tan indigenous bunnies hopping merrily by among the other “early 20th-century island immigrant bunnies.” They are everywhere. A virtual fox and bald-eagle buffet. Or so I was told by a farmer.
Today, on a walk from my house, down the coastal cliffs to the village (a 7-minute walk) one can see, no kidding, at least 8-12 bunnies. Some hop. Most just lay in the sun staring at one as one strolls un-menacingly by to get one’s bread and chocolate from the grocery store. And Broccoli. But mostly chocolate. And Scotch. Did I mention Chocolate? Oh. Yes. I did.
So, yesterday (as I was saying before being joyfully interrupted by bunnies and scotch and chocolate …in Lent…oh my!) I went to the field and noticed the tell-tale sign of a recent fox – the tufts of bunny fur left behind after a midnight snack. You can see them in this image beyond the daffodil. I placed a stone there to honor the ex-bunny. And a daffodil because this island was settled by the Dutch who plant daffodils and tulips like a squirrel on crack, burying nuts in October with a crazed and frantic devotion. Seriously. A lot of daffodils. Then I placed a few sticks in a square about three feet from the ex-bunny, the stone, and the daffodil to create a boundary…some respect for the place of a recent death, since we were on grass and I had no way to draw a corpse outline with chalk on the pavement like in Law and Order (though the thought made me laugh and then I was ashamed for laughing at such a somber moment at the death of Bugs and in Lent (I had named the bunny by then.)
Then I wondered. What if we could all do this on Easter Day? What if we could all place a daffodil on the grass, lots of them, six feet apart? What if, on the grass of the the parks of our little village, we could spread daffodils marking six-foot-squares? And what if, in the parks by our seas, we could all gather on Easter Day in a Creed-free Zone? Silently? Socially-distanced but together. Do I mean to annoy liturgists? No. It’s just a side-benefit.
Atheist? No problem, ponder your loved ones. Agnostic? No problem, give God that silent-treatment to which you are so attached. Buddhist? Awesome, stand there and be mindful. Christian? Well ok, stand there, SILENTLY; but don’t tell the rest of us how this should have been planned. Jew? Cool! Let those of us near you marinate in your silent Kabbalah. Druid? Well, you have the rest of us at a disadvantage so enjoy what you see in the sea, trees, and land but don’t be smug; the rest of us are doing our best. Muslim? Fantastic! Imagine the calls from far-off minarets. We are all jealous (silently) of the smells from your kitchens. Hindu? Wonderful! From six feet you can still safely throw colored powders making rainbows on the grass. Pretty!
So I called the Mayor. One may in a small town. He said yes, assuming this or that. All of which is easy! Then a few others. We have ordered cut daffodils from an area farm. We are collecting long sticks to mark six-foot squares on the grasses of our ocean-side parks. As people drop by to stand their 15-minute Easter-Day vigil in silence, they will find a daffodil. Pick it up. Stand and praise their higher-power, then leave quietly at a distance leaving the square for us to replace the daffodil for the next Easter-ocean-pilgrim! Its a drop-in-flash-social-distancing-non-religious-silent-mob. Sort of.
Such a simple idea. A way for all of this little village by the Salish Sea to be together-ed, on land, liturgy-free, dogma-free, patriarchy-free, inquisition-free; together, but always six-feet apart. Unable to chat but therefore ever so much more tuned in to each other’s smiles, and the whiff of cardamom or lavender or chicken stock that our sweaters leave in our wake, like cool intense. People- alone – and together – the way life has always been. Alone. Together. On land. Silent in Awe on the planet. Exchanging hype for hope.
Charles LaFond is an Episcopal priest, author, speaker, potter, and fundraiser living on the cliffs of an island in the Salish Sea. He writes The Daily Sip; which is neither.