I live in tropical Far North Queensland. I’m surrounded by lush green forests on one side and vast turquoise waters on the other. I watch Ulysses butterflies flash their electric blue wings in my backyard. I wake up to a cacophony of bird voices in the mornings. In our larger ‘backyard’, we have cute wallabies, rare tree kangaroos and the impressive cassowary, whose call sounds like it came from a dinosaur, not a bird. Colourful fish frolic on the reef, and turtles make frequent appearances. Not to mention crocodiles. With so many captivating animals to choose from, then why are my children’s stories full of rabbits?
It comes down to roots. And by roots I don’t mean the snaking woody stems that I often trip over when exploring the local rainforests. It’s the origins. My origins. The place I came from. The place that shaped me and forever left its mark on me.
I hail from a small European country in the middle of the continent, bordered by other countries. The nearest sea, the Mediterranean, is about two-three days drive. The lack of any large water vessel is compensated by beautiful mountains, deep green forests, and numerous rivers and lakes. Rabbits, foxes, deer, and even wolves and bears roam these forests and open fields.
Growing up in a small country town has its advantages. It’s very close to nature. As a child, and later as a young adult, I ventured there often, with my childhood friends, with my family, or by myself accompanied by my scruffy little dog. Rabbits, foxes, birds and Bambies were a part of my culture and stories. My childhood ‘hero’ was a rabbit from a very popular cartoon series. The rabbit’s escapades still bring a smile to my face. As a teenager, I discovered a book called ‘Watership Down’ by Richard Adams. It became my one of my favourite treasures. I’ve read it many times since. Still love it.
But turns out rabbits go much much deeper…
Recently on our family holidays, my mum, brother and I were bobbing up and down in the gentle ocean waves, enjoying the sun and the warm currents underneath, when our conversation turned to my brother’s children.
‘She still falls asleep with a thumb in her mouth,’ my brother says. ‘She’ is my niece, about to start primary school.
‘Well, remember my son and his affection for beanies?’ I say and laugh, picturing my then 4-year-old son holding a fluffy beanie to his face. I laugh even more, almost taking a mouthful of water, when my mind offers an image of my brother as a toddler cuddling his white baby blanket.
‘You were not different,’ Mum says. ‘You had a special rabbit skin. You wouldn’t go anywhere without it!’
Who would have known.