As you can see, the rabbits we share this habitat with are well fed. This photo was taken in early spring, when most rabbits would be skin and bones. Ours were skin, bones and a healthy layer of early peas, soon fleshed out in summer even further with every single leaf of the high-protein soybeans – yes, all three rows – and yes, the plants valiantly put out new leaves, and the rabbits ate them too.
We estimate we have about five or six dens scattered in the scraggly wild we’ve let grow up along our property’s fence line. My husband is an absolute nut for them. For over a decade he raised a rabbit named Hell Chicken, so he calls all rabbits affectionately “chickens.” It was after Hell Chicken’s death that we noticed a big uptake in our rabbit population: her spirit sons and daughters, perhaps?
I too have come to love their wise company in the yard. It is said that rabbits, who are the most active at dawn and dusk, are mystical creatures, revealers of the hidden teachings that come from sitting with paradox. I’ve also heard tell that you can follow them into the faerie realm. I love their conversation, but also how they move in the physical world: leaping and bounding, never getting boxed in, a creature who swallows their fear and lives by their wits, demonstrators of the strength of the intuition as guide.
It’s been some time since any of them feared us though. Even after the dressing down I gave them post-soybean feast! So this week on the urban farm, we are putting a fence around our largest garden. It’s going to be a simple affair, using unfinished cedar posts we procured cheaply from a timber harvester and a galvanized wire fence that’s spaced smaller on the bottom and wider at the top. A posthole digger, lots of muscles, a few hand tools, and we’ll be all set.
There was a time when rabbits or no rabbits, I would never have agreed to put up a fence – such an exclusionary act. Fences and walls were to me the stuff of gated community arrogance or Berlin Wall evil. And there are still times today when I feel the same, such as when I hear of the Secure Border Initiative mandated by Congress to put up 650 miles of fence on the border with Mexico. Talk about paradoxical exclusion!
Yet, even while I want to reserve the right to question why a fence is deemed necessary, whom it seeks to exclude, and why, I have also come to view our fence from the perspective of the plants living within. To the plants, our fence will mean life. And to us, the creatures in this habitat that eat some leaves, but need more fruits and seeds and roots, it will also mean life.
In 1966, Edward T. Hall fathered proxemics, the study of the human use of space within the context of culture (1). He posited that there are four invisible concentric circles that exist psychologically around each of us, from the outermost ring, the “public ring,” at twelve to twenty-four feet out, to the closer “social ring,” at four feet, to the “personal ring,” at two feet, and ending at the innermost ring, the “ring of intimacy,” extending from our physical body outward about two feet. Hall was concerned primarily with how culture shapes these circles, but I offer that it’s equally important to look at them from the perspective of the individual.
I encountered this idea in a magic course I took called The Iron Pentacle. The teacher suggested that it is the task of the individual to determine who and what we are comfortable having in the rings of concentric circles. Perhaps only you are in the innermost circle; or you and your deity(ies) of choice. In the next ring out you might place your spouse, your children, and a best friend. Or maybe the kids are several rings out today for sanity’s sake! Sometimes your job may be very close and other times it may be placed in the outermost ring.
People and things can move. Proximity doesn’t necessarily translate to love, neither does distance equate always to dislike. Putting the kids a few rings out doesn’t mean you won’t continue to parent them. The point is that you are in charge. You get to choose what boundaries you need in order to be yourself wisely, in order to thrive. When you and your energy interact with others, you are entitled to decide where to lay the fence, how big the mesh is and whether there is a gate.
Try it. Get out a big sheet of paper and make yourself a personal boundaries’ bulls-eye. Notice any feelings that come up as you make your choices. What is it like staking your own territory? What do the circles reveal as important in your life? What are you surprised to find you don’t want close to you? How might solidifying boundaries positively affect some of your relationships?
For my part, I am looking forward to many years ahead sharing this land with generations of rabbits. I am also looking forward this summer to finally trying those soybeans.