Since arriving at The Dog House, Maggie, the rescued pup, has made new friends --- Colorado Scot, the dark as night Lab, Ingrid, the loquacious Labradoodle, and Zulu the Magnificent, among others (check out their pics in previous Dog House blogs!).
Maggie's new found pals aren't only those of her own kind. Caleb MacGregor, Cardinalis Cardinalis, of the Order of the Thistle, tells her stories of flights over dangerous waters. She lies underneath the feeder for hours, listening to his tall tales. Bold Doe, she of pastures, forest (and Village and Town!), also tells Maggie a thing or two, mostly dark musings on man's inhumanity to deer.
So far, though, paws down, Maggie's favorite woodland bud is the learned, the perspicacious, Sylvie Lapin, of the order Lagomorpha, genus Sylvilagus, who will soon be returning to --- you guessed it --- Harvard, where she serves as a Distinguished Professor of… Maggie has found Sylvie's story riveting, a provocative, evocative page-turner. Take a gander!
EXCERPT FROM THE AIDE-MEMOIRE OF SYLVIE LAPIN
--The Cattail Marsh, Arshamomaque Preserve,On the Eve of Easter and Passover, in The Year of Our Lord, 2012 (that's anno domini, dummy!)
My Esteemed Colleagues, President, Chancellors, Fellows, Trustees (and then some):
I, Sylvie Lapin, of sound mind though somewhat dubious egg-shaped body, herein bequeath, in exhausting detail, the perambulations and adventures extraordinaire that I experienced on the Road of Trials during this, my sabbatical year.
My magic flight from the halls of academe (I still so fondly recall your thunderous applause, avec paws, as I made my way beneath our glorious Triumphal Arch) began prosaically, when I tore my right dewclaw just south of Cambridge. For those not acquainted with the morphology of Sylvilagus Floridanus, a dewclaw is the extra toe on a rabbit's front paw.
I am not sure that even the most distinguished and perspicacious of you can imagine the ignominy of being forced to abandon a lifelong quest almost as it began. Worst still, to be laid up in the bowels of Providence, flat on my cottontail, with my pitiable right front paw ensconced in a steel cradle. I had come to a screeching, forlorn halt, and my old coat was indeed tattered and torn. Woe was me!
The nurses, of course, were kind, though the doctors had the annoying habit of patting my pelt at the least provocation. "Oooo, we've never felt anyone quite so soft," they'd coo in my ear. As you no doubt know, we Cottontails are known for the largess of our ears, most likely an early adaptation for detecting predators (not, of course, the 10 cms of our European cousins, but quite respectable nonetheless). Though those docs were predators, upon calmer reflection, I could hardly blame them --- to wit, my fur is most uncommonly long and soft, with an ombre in varying shades of brown, grey and buff, almost indescribably ravishing. And, ooh la la, that white blaze on my forehead! Eat your hearts out!
That's not to say that my time at the "Hotel Dieu" didn't have its compensations. Grass, forbs and leafy weeds were plentiful, and it was such a relief to be able to cogitate freely, to let my prodigious mind roam unbridled, without the daily, paralyzing fear of red foxes, badgers and Iberian lynxes (those dastardly boys always on my tail). It can be so tiresome to freeze, observe and then have to warn others with powerful thumps on the ground --- hop, hop, zig, zag, eat, bite. C'est la vie! C'est l'ennui!
So, as I lay in my hospital bed, looking out the window at the Hotel Biltmore and thinking that it lacked any redeeming aesthetic charm, I began to ruminate unfettered on the subject of my life's work, that object d'art, the academic, scholarly treatise --- the histoire that would astonish my colleagues, make my name in the annals of the Academy, and bring accolades down upon my furry head from sea to shining sea (or thereabouts). This golden bough of my sabbatical year, this call to heady greatness, this crossing of the first threshold that would lead me to the belly of the whale, was indeed, if I do say so myself, a work of singular brilliance --- the codification, the apotheosis, of all that I was, all that I am, and all that I will be. More or less.
What was this ultimate boon? None other than the magnum opus I had promised to complete during my sabbatical year away from you, noted colleagues --- a thoroughgoing analysis of Lagomorpha as the trickster archetype in folklore and mythology, as realized in Aztec, Central African, Chinese, Japanese, Jewish, Korean, Native American and Vietnamese folklore. In addition, I'd throw in an analysis of the anthropomorphization of the rabbit in literature and film. Facile comme tout!
Think about it. There's Br'er Rabbit, Camillo the Hare, Little Georgie, Bugs Bunny, Crusader Rabbit, Energizer Bunny (so déclassé!). Hester, Little Scutt, Miffy, Mr. Bunnsy, Peter Cottontail (a lowly relative on my distaff side), Peter Rabbit, Auntie Rabbit, Bunny, Sally, and Daddy Rabbit, etc., etc., etc. I'd be remiss if I also didn't include that watch-fobbed and vest-bedecked White Rabbit, though my grandmother, always a stern upholder of Victorian values, would roll over in her burrow were she to discover that I had invited that scallywag to the feast.
"Sylvie, Sylvie, I despair! Will you never learn? That pitiful excuse for a rabbit was always late for dinner," grandmamma would cry, her wrinkled paws shaking with outrage. "You cannot possibly expect me to share the glories of our Paschal table with such an abomination as he. What, prey, do you suppose will happen to that cranberry-topped ambrosia," she said, eyeing it longingly. "An Englishwoman's home is her castle! A rising tide may lift all boats, and a cat may look at a king, but a leopard, that leopard, will never change his spots."
And so, in memory of my dearly departed grandmother, the matriarch from whom all good in my life has derived ("Woman much missed, how you call to me, call to me"), I acquiesced and consigned that inglorious Lapin Blanc to a mere footnote, pg. 22, #3, op. cit. ibid, et ali. You get the drift.
Mumbling "Fight Fiercely, Harvard" under my breath, I finally sprang the trap that was Providence, and limped my way along the interstices between I 95 and the sea, ocean --- whatever it's called. I've never known, and I've never wanted to. With respect to bodies of water, or so say the ominous warnings passed down by my forebears, scratched in faded, pawwriting on yellowed, corners-curled maps (cartography is not our long suit), "here there be dragons," or "hic sunt dracones," for those of you familiar with the my mother tongue.
Though some might rightly consider my foot a good luck charm, I was so grateful it had remained attached to my leg during the arduous journey to New London. It would have been most inconvenient had it not. I, a wayfaring rabbit, stranger in a strange land, so far away from those crimson halls I once called home. What sustained me? The VERITAS of our ivied institution, and vigorously reciting the words of one of our distinguished founding fathers, Charles W. Eliot, whose invocations, convocations and speeches extempore from his Mother wit I had scrittoed in core and repeated ad nauseum in my lolling tongue with the wind, rain and whirling leaves at my back.
Voila! A bit worse for wear and covered in rank fumitor and furrow weeds, I finally arrived at that proverbial port of no return, that bastion of slick oil spills on the Thames that was New London. It was a bit tricky navigating the gangplank with a sore paw, but ahoy, there matie, I persevered. Soon, with the modern day equivalent of sails unfurled, we were underway, sea breezes rustling my cottontail, bound for Bug Light and my new home by the salt rushed sea ---a cozy shipshape bungalow on Ashamomaque Pond.
I won't belabor the trials and tribulations I underwent getting from Orient Point to Greenport (or chronicle how I managed to hold off the occasionally imaginative, though ultimately clumsy, advances of those nasty sailors). Suffice it to say, I triumphed over all and arrived just as dusk was falling. I so hate to brag, so you probably aren't aware, that among my accomplishments is an expertise in natural history. It's been a lifelong pursuit. As such, I was aware that the area was beginning to revert to what we naturalists call a "climax community", and would soon be a thriving oak hickory forest, with northern bayberry and eastern red cedar --- any self-respecting rabbit's cup of tea!
Like most rabbits of my generation, I had rented my dew-dropped bungalow ("Let's build a bungalow big enough for two, big enough for two, my darlin, big enough for two) after visiting the website, www.burrowaway.com. I was not disappointed! As the moon loomed, the scent of Greenport's woodlands and the sea beyond was so redolent with promise, so reminiscent of my days as a carefree kit! As Proust might acknowledge, mais oui, c'est la madeleine! And oh, stay my heart, the shimmering landscape, the swooping terns, the doe with her fawns, the sea swept land.
I saw a welcoming slate path leading to a bright blue door. It has been a warm winter, so the front beds were already abloom with King Alfreds, Narcissi, Hyacinth, and Croci. My nose twitched in ecstasy, my plume shook, and I was on my feet, in bliss! As I strode down the path, I could see ribbon-trimmed, crisp, white, dotted swiss café curtains at the windows. The door creaked as I opened it, sounding so like my old place. For a moment, I was sick with longing! Finally, I pulled the silvery string. A warm light suffused the room. I beheld its inimitable charm, nestled in a cherished woodland, safe from harm.
Some hand, with care and love, had prepared this home for me, my own Porto Verde! There was a Spinach Gratinee ready to pop into the antique, wood-fired range, a Caesar Salad fit for a queen, an inimitably creamy roasted crab soup, and nubby nuts and gleaming red currants for dessert. Just the way we rabbits like it! Ah me, ah domicile, ah Greenport, already so loved! Welcome!
No time like the present, though. After downing, with my usual aplomb, this barely sustaining meal, I lugged my laptop out of its mud-spattered case and plugged it in. "To the trenches," I cried, "soldier on, my lady! Home and hearth must serve the raging beast of academic ambition!"
As my laptop powered up, ersatz stars blinking on a synthetic horizon (never, as magnificent, as real stars are), I wondered. Am I equal to this task? Can I atone with the Father, meet with the Goddess, and condense the scope and breadth of world literature into an insightful thesis that will make my illustrious colleagues tremble, while still maintaining my ooh la la femininity?
For that's important. I am, after all, Sylvie Lapin of the spring meadows, soft of foot and fur, humble where laurels bestrew my path, meek while inheriting the earth. My legions are many, my detractors few. Musing on what was actually in store, however --- the months of slavish devotion to woefully obscure folktales while pretending to enjoy them --- I shook with dread (and hunger!). Even more unsavory was the thought of my editor, that Bostonian who never met a comma he didn't like. I foresaw years of diacritical marks in my future!
And what about summer? When will I ever go swimming, picnic basket filled to brim, cocktails on board in my Barbie thermos? Admittedly frightened of water, its irresistible charms nevertheless beguile me, and I adore that miraculous light-as-a-feather feeling, such a rare sensation for me! Whither sand castles, pea green boats, and singing to small guitars? Maybe I better take a hop outside, clear my dizzying head, exercise the dewclaw. Perambulate.
Oh, my (soon to be former!) colleagues, I've been such a fool! As I walked into that holy night, my longing for academic immortality seemed abidingly ridiculous in light of all I had learned on my journey. My reputation as a scholar be damned! Who cares, in the face of eternity, about those supercilious reviewers, those denizens of journals, those sycophantic critics I once mistook as friends. VERITAS. Hah! Give me beauty any day.
The moon hung high in a windswept, starstruck North Fork night. I could hear distance foghorns, the train whistle as it left our station, my lifelong friends, the softly hooting Owl, the adored, though considered by some lowly, Muskrat. As he slipped into the pond, he told me that otters had come back to the North Fork.
Why do people talk about "a man in the moon?" A chacon son gout, of course, but want to know what I see? I see a noble rabbit, of ancient Japanese lineage, a celestial animal, standing on tiptoes, pounding on his uzu, making mashed, sticky rice. Dei Plena Sunt Omnia.
The night was wondrous; may it never end. The salty air on my whiskers, the waters trickling over the rocks at the shore. Something crashed in the trees beyond. "Who's there?" I called, in my naturally timid, quivering voice. For that's who I am, despite all the bluster and bling. I'm a scared little thing, a tiny animal in a huge universe, with a heart that beats wildly.
"Not to worry, we're here", they called back.
"Who's we?" I asked, trembling.
"Everyone you've met and will meet, everyone you know and will know, everyone you have been, are, will be," they answered. My heart filled. "Be of good faith. A heart that beats truly, will surely find a home, safe at last. Et in Terra Pax," they whispered in my ear (my most envied anatomical appendage).
Such is the meaning of home, on the eve of Easter and Passover, in the year of our Lord, 2012 (a.d.), in our much loved Village of Greenport.
Submitted by Maggie the Dog, for her friend, Sylvie Lapin (who is otherwise engaged).
P.S. Today, Valentine's Day, Sylvie reminded me (she knows her Virgil much better than I do) that "Amor vincit omnia; et nos cedamus amori ("Love conquers all things; let us surrender to love"). Speaking for the four-legged, I couldn't agree more!