Warning: The Tale of the Bunny – is a sad one.
From my office window I can see my neighbor’s house and yard, and the little space of grass between us that separates the two, big, old Victorians. In the spring the flowers start popping up -- and so do the bunnies. They’re everywhere. Big ones. Little ones. Hopping all over the place. It’s bunny central out there.
Right opposite my 2nd story window, next to the wall of my neighbor’s foundation, is a bunny nest. Mom is nibbling grass; baby bunnies stick their little faces out to see what’s going on. Flowers bloom. Ahhhh … spring!
A big, black and white cat wanders into the back yard, looking completely bored. It meanders over towards the bunny nest. Mom stops nibbling. And BAM! just like that, the cat grabs a baby bunny and races off.
It happens so quick, it’s startling. I bang on my window and yell. “NO! NO! Bad cat!” The cat drops the bunny, says, “My bad,” and takes off.
No, it doesn’t!
The cat and its prey are nowhere to be found. They are gone. Gone like the days of polite political discourse. Gone like the days of saying “Merry Christma – I mean Happy Hanuk – um … Happy Holidays.” Gone.
Believe it or not, The Tale of the Bunny has taught me a couple of things about my job as a writer.
The first, and what’s most important to me -- how accurate will I be when I tell a story?
In The Tale of the Bunny, I said the cat meandered and wandered. I chose, on purpose, not to say it skulked and hunted in the backyard for prey. I could have built that part of the story up to make it more exciting, but I didn’t. Why?
Because I preferred to be more accurate than dramatic. I didn’t want to villainize the cat for being a cat and victimize the bunny because it’s a bunny. Simply put, the world of nature unfolded before me one fine, spring day and I had a front row seat to witness what is probably a fairly common occurrence throughout backyards in Baltimore.
For me, I desire to speak the truth as clearly as I can. Of course, one person’s truth is another’s folly. But, still, I want to communicate what I consider to be true as accurately as possible. That’s my job as a writer. You may decide you hate it, love it, hate me, disagree, want to find a match … that’s your job as the reader.
In the world of non-fiction, this is easier to do, or at least it should be. If I had used more vibrant adjectives, you may have felt a greater emotion towards the cat and the bunny, and really, if I manipulated you one way or the other, who cares? It’s just a bunny and cat in some random Baltimore backyard.
But what if I am writing about a government official? A school superintendent? A pioneer for a new vaccine? A church leader?
Words have power. They can instantly supercharge any situation. Just by describing how someone stands or dresses, immediately puts a picture in the reader’s mind. Do all my words, like a giant amusement park slide, point the reader to my side and that side only? Do I write, ‘he spoke quietly’? Or do I write, ‘he mumbled’? My pen is mighty, indeed.
As much as I want to get my point across and be persuasive, I also want to speak truthfully. It’s important to me.
What else did I learn from The Tale of the Bunny? I learned nothing I did was going to change what was happening outside my window. I could bang and shout at the cat all I wanted, but the bunny’s plight was out of my control. I was an observer, and now that I have told the story, I am the reporter, and as I communicate what I learned from the experience, I am a commentator. I want to be careful I don’t put too much of me in the story. Was there any right or wrong in the story? No. It literally was part of the circle of life. It was surprising to me only because I don’t usually see these things played out right in front of me.
Even in the fiction books I write for children, I want to be honest. There may be all kinds of fantasy and wondrous play in my stories, but at the heart of each one, there is a truth I am hoping to share with a child.
In my upcoming book, The Three Little Sprigs (Brandylane Publishers, spring 2021), the Woodland Kingdom comes alive as all manner of plants make their plans to move out of their parent’s home into their new digs. Each plant gets to ask Night Wind to send them a Helper who will come and aide them in the building of their new house. But instead of using straw, wood and brick (sound familiar?) they will ask for a Helper who exhibits a certain character trait – like Honesty, or Simplicity.
While the story itself takes place in a make-believe world and is full of the fanciful imaginings a preschooler would love, there are a couple of truths buried within – the decisions we make have consequences, and substance is better than flash.
But, as an adult, when it comes to the news of the day, I do not want to be manipulated by either the left or the right agendas. Let me draw my own conclusions, please.
In other words, let the cat be a cat, and the bunny be a bunny. I’ll decide how I feel about it.