home…soil…rain. That’s the writing prompt I stole from my wife’s blog.
Home and soil remind me of gardens. The first house I can remember living in had a strange garden, nothing grew in it. My mom tried to grow tomatoes and carrots, but worms infected the tomatoes and the carrots didn’t sprout. She said the soil wasn’t good. When she said that, I imagined the previous owners salting the garden. That was a child’s dream because weeds had no trouble growing on that spot of dirty earth. To clean the thriving weeds and withering tomatoes from garden bed, she enlisted me and my brothers to uproot as much as we could. The weeds had cemented themselves into the ground, we just ripped off their leaves. As a reward for blistering our hands and making the garden look like a patch of greenish mange, my parents brought home two furry bunnies. I don’t remember where they got them. I just remember seeing them hopping around our backyard when I got home from school. One was pepper colored, the other was white with big brown spots.
The day we got the rabbits, I was so happy. It was like owning a private set of easter bunnies. I loved easter because my mom would always make us big easter baskets full of jelly beans, repulsive pink marshmallow peeps, and solid chocolate bunnies–they were engraven images: idols–I loved running my fingertips over the waxy grooves. I took it upon myself to fight idolatry in our home by eradicating the chocolate bunnies one delicious bite at a time.
If I had known what would happen with the living breathing bunnies, I would have told my parents to take them far far away. But I didn’t know, so I was happy for a few weeks. After that, I did something that I deeply regret–something that haunts me to this day. For reasons I do not understand, I grabbed the peppery rabbit by his neck and bashed his soft tiny head against the splintered wood fence in our backyard. What possessed me to do this, I cannot say. I liked the bunnies, they let me pet them and sometimes, they would bless with me with soft kisses on the tops of my fingers. That day my fingers betrayed them. After smashing the bunny’s head against the fence for the last time, I held his face to my face. I immediately dropped him when I realized that one of his eyes was bleeding. I remember seeing the blood trickle down his furry chin. I dashed inside the house and then out the front door. I ran and ran up into the hills to my favorite oak tree. I climbed as high as I could and I cried. I remember looking down, thinking that I should jump, that I should break my legs as punishment. But I didn’t jump. I just hit myself on the chest for long time, then climbed down. I felt guilty and sad and terrified. It was the first cruel thing I had ever done to another living being. Why did I hurt that helpless bunny? I was afraid of what I had done and wondered anxiously about what other horrible things I was capable of doing. I thought I was evil, that a demon had seen my sinful nature and possessed me. I was afraid that it would happen again. That fear lived inside me for twenty years.
Surprisingly, the peppery rabbit healed up. I cut his brow, not his eye, so he could still see. Needless to say, he fled from me whenever I went into the backyard. He and his friend burrowed through the fence into our neighbors garden where they feasted on exotic lettuce, carrots, and vegetables. Our neighbor must have had the good soil. Whenever he caught the rabbits dining on his produce, he’d yell, “I’m gonna stew those damned rabbits! The seeds for this lettuce came from Sicily!” Once he shot at them with a BB gun, but he missed. Because the rabbits were such a nuisance and because my parents feared that we would be victims of the bb-gun crossfire, they decided to let the bunnies loose in a huge cemetery in San Jose. It was and is the cemetery with huge lawns and lots of trees and plants and even some peacocks. It’s almost like a state park. It’s also the cemetery that presently holds my grandparents.
Rain reminds me of when I lived in San Jose, CA. I lived there almost up to my thirties. In the Bay Area, it rains on occasion and sometimes it even storms. When I think of California rain, I think of driving to see my girlfriend on a stormy spring evening. It was dark and the winds shook the branches and power-lines. The streets chattered with scattered limbs, leaves, and debris. I was the only one crazy enough to drive through the mess. Above me the sky boiled. Warm rain shot down–my wipers were turned on full blast. Power-lines swooshed, the wind surged with streams of warm and cold air. I drove with the window cracked open. I like to do that because it lets in the scents from outside and storms often smell wonderful. As I drove, I heard a loud thwack just to my left when I spun to look in that direction, a ginko tree tipped, clumps of muddy soil splashed onto the sidewalk and the entire tree slammed down right in front of my car. Luckily the road was wide, so I just drove around on it.
When I got to my girlfriend’s house, we prayed to God, thanking Him for saving my life and asking Him to end the storm. At the time, we were heavily into Benny Hinn style charismatic Christianity. We prayed in tongues, then we watched a movie and made out. After asking God’s forgiveness for making out, we were confident that He would end the storm and I pretended to be assured that I would never again bash an innocent rabbit’s head against a wood fence.
I wish I had happier associations to gardens and rabbits, soil, and home. But I don’t. I’m just harvesting what I have. That doesn’t bother me because I know that I am also master of what I sow.