In my most pragmatic moments, I think of the Dickens quote: "Life is made up of a series of meetings and partings," and try to convince myself that this is, indeed, the way of it and that mourning and memory are the mirror-twins of joy and experience. The latter cannot exist without the former, because otherwise life would be featureless and flat; either constant valley or relentless plateau.
Each bunny brings its own heartbreak, be it with their coming or their going.
Despite his sad start, Boomer came to live an enviable life among bunnies and he lived it well, I think. He was the beloved of two beautiful Flemish-bunny girls in his lifetime and enjoyed many hours napping in the sunshine. He loved a warm bed and a soft pillow. He was easy in the way only a Flemmie can be: gentle, big-hearted, all feet and big ears.
The vacuum and the roar of a lawn mower were the only things to bring out any memory of fear in him.
"You're safe, Boomer. You're home."
And that was enough, whispered time and again into those sweet velvet ears, to calm him. My secret promise; a reminder for us both.
There's some part of me that's in tune with bunnies; that sings in the same key with them. Others don't get it; they might love cats or dogs or iguanas, but the love of a bunny is different, somehow. It touches some other place; a place that seeks to protect them in their peculiar frailties, as much as it delights in their boundless joy.
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
Pic taken from the ferry to Cumberland Island, somewhere along the intracoastal waterway.
Any sailors among us?
I had just one experience as a child in sailboat that I remember looked something like this. I didn't fall overboard or get seasick. Considering how scared I was... both major triumphs!
I've been calling them wild when, in fact, the horses of Cumberland Island are feral, as their ancestry includes horses that were once domesticated.
The population is not managed in any way, includes many bachelors and is left to roam freely in the salt marshes, among the abandoned estate grounds, within the glorious interdune meadows and along the beach itself.
They seemed tame and reconciled to the presence of people and their cameras.
It took all that I had in me not to reach out and stroke this foal's sweet blaze.
"All the wild horses
tethered with tears in their eyes
may no man's touch ever tame
may no man's reins ever chain
and may no man's weight ever lay freight your soul
There are just a handful of places to find such horses, the islands of Chincoteague and Assateague being the best known, but these are said to be longer-backed and longer-legged than those to the north.
Never mind that the setting is otherwise gorgeous and pristine.
Some conservationists concern themselves with the environmental effects of their population on a sensitive ecosystem; a population largely without predators (save the occasional gator, I guess) and one which is considered non-native, while others are more concerned with the welfare of the horses themselves. Like gypsies, they wander in family groups, constantly on the move and prone to defend whatever territory they happen to be in at the moment.
None of that much mattered to me. They were beautiful. And photogenic.
An hour or so at sunrise on Jekyll's Driftwood Beach was a *must-do* for me, despite not really wanting to drag myself from bed in the pre-dawn darkness at the start of what would be a full day of kayaking and then later driving clear across the state of Georgia to start the trip home.
But I'd seen pictures and had to be there with my own camera.
The dawn was disappointingly cloudy and the horizon dotted with shrimp boats... not what I'd hoped for.
I wandered among the jumbled boneyard of oaks and pines, waiting. I got lost with the fiddler crabs scuttling between the maze-like tangles of trunks and branches. I searched for perfect shells and sand dollars. I came upon a juvenile Bald Eagle, perched in a dead snag, awaiting the clear dawn's light with me and felt privileged for its company.
Finally, the sun made its appearance above the clouds and I found that I liked it best between these silhouetted and wind bowed oaks.
Left behind, survivors from another era, they inspire awe in me
and provide a foothold for my imagination
sweet sentiment dressed in snips and blazes and stars
a whimsical peek into the hubris of the past, red wattles swinging in a sultry breeze
admittance to some rich man's Valhalla, its roofless ruins pointing jagged brick fingers to the sky...
No longer one family's private garden, Cumberland Island is the type of place a child might dream of: a whispering forest where flowers grow giant-size and birds speak in tongues and vines are so fat they could carry you from a tree to a pony's wild silky back.
A place where clouds seem to have fallen to the sugar-white beach in foamy bits and scrub oaks lie blown back like shrieking women.
If ever you'd dreamed of such a place, you'd not have the heart to see it ruined again.
Silenced now are the grand parties, the silk and champagne laughter. Instead there's wild turkeys that waddle through the palmettos like a pack of tiny horses and ferns that sprout like fountains from the wet bark of primeval oaks, sudden pristine fields where cows might wander and the occasional lone palm that rises up like a warrior out of the whiteness. Suddenly, the crashing sea comes into view and the child in me is happy for dreams come true.
Accessible only by ferry, Georgia's Cumberland Island is said to be one of the least developed places in the US.
Designated as a National Seashore in 1972, most of the island is managed by the National Park Service which limits visitors to 300 at any one time.
There are no stores and no paved roads. The only full-time residents are park service personnel and maybe a couple descendants of Thomas Carnegie who owned the island at one time.
You walk or bike everywhere. Carry your PB&J sandwiches and water in your backpack. If you're smart, you pack a bikini along with your camera and binoculars for the inevitable mid-afternoon swim.
Georgia is hot!!!
There's a necessary death march across the island, through its ruins, saltwater marshes, maritime forest and dunes before you get to dip your toes in the ocean.
It's worth it, though... and there's neat stuff to see along the way.
And very, very hot.
I'm not sure how many days into this trip it was before I stopped feeling dumbfounded by the sight of palm trees. Is that normal? I mean, do they have that effect on everyone or just people from NJ or just silly me?
stepped on a plane and found yourself transported to another world?
where wild horses wander amid the ruins of a great island estate?
where the shadows of trees hold anhingas and wood storks?
and life birds fly past in squadrons of color or shades of gray?
where gators smile to lure the unknowing closer to the edge of their world?
where pelicans pose dockside for a portrait?
have you ever lost your breath to the beauty of a sunrise?
I'm like an 11 year old just back from sleep-away camp with a hundred run-on sentences about everything I saw, everyone I fell in love with, every little thing I did... words and photos are just beneath the surface... just waiting for my head to stop with all the spinning.
I'm also painfully slow to process new experiences which is why I talk in lists and pictures, sometimes.
For a few weeks after Labor Day I pretend you won't leave me. I stroll along the empty beach and wade, alone, in the still-warm water. Trees somewhere else might be screaming with color and light, but here at the shore, the sky is higher and the sea darker. Tiny sanderlings dart from the waves at my feet. I close my eyes and breathe you in, thinking you're the best season and I will love you forever.
Then, with a quick sweep of goldenrod over the dunes, you're gone.
I'll admit to having feelings for Fall, but left as I am, now, with earlying evenings and doles of rain, I'm tempted to flee south and pursue you elsewhere. It's nothing serious, yet, but there will be apple orchards and pumpkin farms to visit and cranberries ripening in the Pine Barrens. I think you should know that Autumn will tempt my heart away if you're not generous enough with sunny days.
Icy arrows are pointing the way. Egrets and plovers and laughing gulls blend feathers with sky and are gone with you.
I want to go, too.
I want your misty dawns and searing afternoons, your shimmering lakes and dusks freckled with fireflies. I want sun-warmed tomatoes and fresh strawberries.