A Summer Sky
The Price Of Captivity
A Summer Sky – I am always thrilled when I get a message from my friend Mark Stewart who lives in the U.K. telling me that he is sending another of his thought provoking posts to publish on A Beating Heart. His ability to weave a beautiful narrative from a simple premise is so gratifying. This sweet story brought me to tears. The desire for surrender is chilling – the longing is palpable – the ending is uplifting. Thank you Mark.
A Summer Sky
For the longest time he had known only the wire mesh and the wooden walls, and the filthy straw beneath his body. Some days there was food, thrown through a door that barely opened, but mostly there was nothing, not even rotting cabbage. Long ago what little water there was had become undrinkable, having turned the colour of pond algae.
In the summer, the ticks and the flies were like thorns piercing his flesh; in the winter – a time of darkness and shivering and damp – the cold drained his body of warmth. Draughts found their way through every hole and gap in the wood, nudging him awake when he wanted to sleep, covering him in a blanket of frost.
For the most part he sat in the same place, still and upright and unmoving, his body hunched. Loneliness, more piercing than the torments of summer, was his only companion. The muscles in his legs had started to calcify, like the bones of an astronaut who has spent too long in space. At night, the only light he saw was that of the Moon; and in the day the only shade was a tarpaulin roof, hotter than the door of an oven.
He began to long for release, not the freedom of the open meadow or the garden they never let him enter, but of the long sleep, the one he would never wake from, the darkness into which he would gladly have gone just to be rid of the narrow confines of the world in which he lived.
And then one day – gentle fingers closed around his body and lifted him free of the rotting straw, which still clung to him like the vines of a tropical swamp, as if each strand were reluctant to let him go. He was placed for a while in a much smaller box, a travelling case, onto the floor of which he slumped, certain that this would be his last journey. But not long after the same soft hands retrieved him from the box and stroked his fur, while it was cleaned and freed of the mites that had found a home there. It felt good – almost like a rebirth – to be free of the dirt that had encrusted his body for so long and for his nails, which had grown into wounding scythes, to be cut.
Tentatively, as if he couldn’t quite believe it, he sniffed fresh hay and kale and he began to eat. The hutch that became his new home was large and clean and dry, and there were days, many of them, when he hopped free of its walls, grass beneath his feet. He learned to run – there had never been space before – skipping and twisting in the air until he was happy and tired and ready for sleep.
Now when the rabbit sleeps, he dreams not of death but of a bright meadow to play in and clean hay to sleep on. But most of all he dreams of the warm sun and the young doe he lives with, the companion he had longed for and whose life he now shares. Asleep and at peace, the rabbit dreams beneath a summer sky.
Artist illustration by kind permission of Bly Pope: http://www.popebrothersart.com/