Don’t Read The News

 In News, Steve Hendrix

This year has been such an ordeal … for almost everyone. I won’t recap it for you, you already know all the headlines and probably all the details. Some time around May/June I stopped reading the news.

I stopped clicking on Facebook posts that invoked any element of the news. I decided that I could easily predict the news, or at least the ensuing and continual follow up news reports after the broad strokes of the headline event. I ignored the continuing escapade of run on follow up click me driven news that was supposed to pass for something essential for me to know.

I found that not only could I pretty easily predict the news, by not reading it, I had some degree of escape from the anxiety that is caused by it. I started to ask – Do I need to read this? Is this something that I don’t already know on some level, or would be surprised by? Most importantly, does my reading this benefit me in any way, will it have any effect other than to raise my anxiety level or, as I mention it to others, raise theirs?

I decided no. And I was done with it.

This is my favorite Kiddo picture. He’s about 4-5 weeks old, maybe. Don’t you just want to hug him?

To replace the news, I decided to spend more time with my new friend Kiddo the bunny.

One day in May while having a remote Team meeting from my house, I saw through the window a couple little baby bunnies in my yard. How cute!

A week or so later, I was sitting outside in a yard chair and saw one of the baby bunnies about 10 feet away in the grass, just munching away, watching me. He then wiggled his butt, you know, the way cats wiggle their butt when they’re about to leap out at something? 

And then he sort of slithered through the grass a bit, as if I couldn’t see him, took a HUGE bite of some leaf and then he charged me! He stopped dead in front of me about 3 feet away, still chomping on this ridiculous leaf. And thus our friendship was born. There’s a video of this – you have to really watch from the very start to see his butt wiggle, and then of course watch it all the way. Be sure to full screen the video, it’s not hi rez.

He seemed – mostly – unafraid of me. I’m much bigger than he is, after all, and not a rabbit. I decided to name him Kiddo. And I decided to invest my energy into nurturing this relationship instead of reading the news. I began spending more time in the yard, and I would see him again from time to time. Just him – apparently his siblings were no longer allowed in our yard.

All alone and on his own. Bunnies get kicked out so early!

And I thought, we humans may all look very similar to him, so how do I let him know it is me? I began making certain noises whenever he was around me, I fashioned a slight little cough, I would gently clear my throat. To put him at ease, I would take deep sighs, like I was just sooooo relaxed. I would pretend to groom myself, scratching at my leg like I had a flea or something. An animal is typically relaxed if they feel confident enough to groom themselves around another animal. I would prepare salads for myself and eat them on the step of my front porch as he hovered nearby, eating his own diet of my lawn. I chomped the lettuce loudly to send the message – don’t worry, I don’t eat animals, just vegetables.

All to inform him that yes, it was indeed me and he was safe with me. 

We let the grass in the driveway cracks grow wild for Kiddo.

With my new found friend though, came responsibilities. When you think of rabbits, don’t they seem like the most vulnerable of creatures? What cannot kill them??? Cats, dogs, humans, hawks, owls, snakes, weasels, cars, trucks, on and on. They are ground-based, so they can’t climb a tree to get away. The don’t have wings, so they can’t fly to escape. While they can hop and run fairly fast, they’re not really that fast. As I fell in love with my Kiddo, I became completely paranoid.

What a cutie!

I would scout the skies and the upper branches of nearby trees for signs of aerial predators. As much as I love raptors, I found myself running at any hawk that would land in a tree limb in my yard to tell them – Go ahead kill something, just kill something somewhere else! I made collaborative deals with Blue Jays, leaving little piles of peanuts on my porch railing so they would hang out in the yard and warn others and harass away any hawks or owls (which they did). I began studying about rabbits. They don’t live very long – at best maybe 9-10 years, but these are figures for captive rabbits, so called “pet rabbits”. (Please do not support the domestication of rabbits, they are not pets). For rabbits in the wild, the figures are lower. I read of a study that tagged 226 rabbits and after two years, only 2 of them remained alive! Granted, this was in North Dakota, and how anything could survive more than 2 winters in North Dakota is beyond me.

Sometimes Kiddo’s ears do funny things. And the light shines through and they look really weird. But cute.

I realized that I was the parent of a child that was doomed to die, and probably soon. At any moment. It was all too much, the stress of losing my loved little Kiddo. I decided to think of him as my child. But my child who has a terminal illness. I didn’t know how long Kiddo had to live. I didn’t know how long I had Kiddo to love and enjoy. But I decided that if he wasn’t going to live a long life, then I would concentrate on making the short time he had better than it would be otherwise.

He even hops up on the front porch sometimes. I swear one day if he is standing at the door when I open it, I am letting him in. But just for a bit.

I found that Kiddo was blithely uninterested in anything I tried to feed him, carrots, lettuce, strawberries, blackberries, cilantro, parsley, all sorts of greenery. Of course, with my yard his 24 hour buffet, the competition was strong. The only thing that he developed a taste for was sliced bananas. You can’t give too many of them, as it is technically a sweet. But he’ll pretty reliably eat them. I have a metal plate, and if I tap the plate with the knife to make the sound, he’ll work his way over and eat them right in front of me. I can reach out and touch him (though I never have tried). 

He’s getting bigger. He’s probably about 10 weeks here.

Sadly, he has turned nocturnal, which apparently rabbits do, and I don’t easily see him as much. I had no idea! I thought – why would they be nocturnal? Isn’t the night more dangerous? I guess after thinking about it – on balance, it is not. Owls, more dangerous, yes. But no hawks. Fewer cars, fewer everything. And he isn’t as easy to spot. But with the night, his habits changed, and as he’s grown, he will disappear for nights in a row and I don’t know where he is. And of course then I worry – did something happen to him? Did a Barred Owl come silently from behind and land with all his weight and fearsome talons stabbing the life out of him and then carry him away to be eaten alive? Aaaaggghh! I slice the bananas, I tap the metal plate. And if he doesn’t come, I can only keep checking the plate in the mornings to see if he has come by and gobbled some banana slices at some point in the night. So far, most of the time, he has. And I’m immediately relieved. I have another day with Kiddo.

When Kiddo gets sleepy, his eyes start getting narrower.

Last night, the 3rd night in a row I couldn’t find him in the yard, I went for a walk around my neighborhood to find him. I brought my flashlight. Rabbits eyes glow brightly in the dark, they have excellent reflective vision. And sure enough, 2 yards over, as I shown my light around, I saw some glowing eyes. I don’t know if it was Kiddo. I scolded him – Hey Kiddo, you need to come home. You need to come see me. This yard is not as safe as mine! I don’t know what he thought of that, but he stubbornly stayed put. If it was him at all. Eastern cottontail rabbits spend most of their time alone, which was a surprise to me, I always thought of rabbits as social creatures. It’s so sad to see him at night in the yard sometimes, all by himself. I have seen a second set of glowing eyes in the yard on perhaps 3 occasions. It could be one of his siblings, or perhaps his first girlfriend, and he’s showing her what a “safe” yard is like. The first few times, the second set of glowing eyes would hop away, but he must have told her or him that NO – it’s ok. The last time, the second set of glowing eyes stayed put.

He likes to stand up on his feet to get a better look at me. Or perhaps he’s showing me his belly because he trusts me. I’m not sure.

And so we go on. Every night, it repeats, I put on my headlamp, I walk out in the yard, calling Hey Kiddo. I tap the plate. Sometimes I pull up a chair in the driveway and sit in it for 40 minutes or more, even in the cold. And then – so far – almost every time, he comes over and often he won’t even eat at all – he’ll sniff the plate but gradually work his way over near me, and sometimes he just lays down about 3 feet away and hangs out for a while.

Night time hanging out with Kiddo.

One night it was about 1am and I hadn’t seen him for several nights, and I went out with my headlamp, walking around the yard, softly calling. A neighbor who I don’t know that well that walks his dog late at night was walking by and he saw my light and didn’t know it was me, and he called over – um, can I help you? Like I was a burglar or something. And I walked over to him, trying to think of a way to tell him what I was doing. I’m, well, looking for my pet rabbit, I said. He’s not really my pet, he’s a wild rabbit, but he’s like my friend. I can’t even imagine what he thought of me. I don’t think he believed me. As I walked toward him, all of sudden there was Kiddo, almost right under my feet! (this happens a lot). And I pointed my light and triumphantly said – Ah, see there he is! I imagine he went home and told his wife about some strange neighbor he saw talking to a rabbit in the yard at 1 in the morning with his headlamp on.

To my clients. I hope you enjoyed my Kiddo story and how I found myself unwilling to continue to absorb information that I did not need to know or could guess at if I had chosen to think about it, and that only produced anxiety. I no longer allow outlets for news to punish me. And I have replaced all of that with, among other things, my loving friend Kiddo. And don’t worry, my cats are not jealous. They certainly DO NOT CARE.

But in addition to Kiddo sustaining me throughout this severely difficult year, you too have sustained me, and in so many ways. Your decision to honor me with a relationship, and your contributions that are sometimes purchases, sometimes questions, sometimes calls for help, sometimes just a hello, but always, they are received with gratitude and deep appreciation. I wish you the best for 2021 and hope that you too will find a new friend as lovely as Kiddo to get you through our times.

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