I was the kid who was forever bringing home strays or baby birds. Some I’d thrust upon neighbors (apparently I was hard to resist), some would hang around, and some unfortunately wouldn’t make it. I stopped doing this when I hit about 12 years old. But then in high school, my friend called me with 4 baby rabbits. From what I understand, her mother’s boyfriend had set traps and the mother rabbit had been caught in one. And now here were her orphaned babies who were clearly too young to fend for themselves.
I took on the care of Hoover (named for the vacuum cleaner, not the president). He was small enough that he required warmed kitten formula from a medicine dropper every few hours. I remember cradling him in my palm with his oversized feet sticking up, feeding him until his belly was round and his eyes drooped. It was the last few weeks of school and I carted him around everywhere in a little shoebox and when feeding time came, the teachers let me use the microwave in the teacher’s lounge to warm his formula.
Eventually he got big enough to start eating leafy things on his own. I’d take him out into the backyard and let him wander beneath the safety of a laundry basket. There was a nice little patch of clover near the garage where I’d set us up for an hour or two every day. A couple of times, the laundry basket was removed but he always hung around and let me take him back inside. Until one day he decided he knew where he belonged and darted into the neighbor’s garden.
I didn’t try to go after him. I knew it was time to let him be what he was meant to be. We saw him quite often over the summer, munching away in the gardens – clearly thriving.
I thought a lot about Hoover while I was painting this. Lately I’ve been feeling a bit like a stray myself. But then I think that sometimes all we need is for someone to show us the clover. And that will happen when we’re ready to come out from under the laundry basket.