silver hare

My friend and kin Jon with his young son Jesse, Calvin’s fourth cousin, found a dying hare by the side of a New Mexican road where they now live. It had probably been hit by a car and was breathing when they peddled their bicycles up to it. The two laid it in an adjacent field, which I imagined flat and expansive, grasses glowing golden under a vast cloudless western sky. It died there, its silver body gracefully sinking into the terracotta earth. He sent me a photo. I haven’t been able to get the image out of my mind. Somehow it reminded me of Calvin. So beautiful. So defenseless.

In the photo the hare, willowy with a soft fair coat, lay in Jon’s careful hands, its large apple-sized head resting gently, cradled in a slightly soiled rag. I think it was still alive.

When Calvin was born I was swimming deep under waves of anesthesia, my platelet count too low—having given some for Calvin—to risk an epidural bleed. The surgeon, though I pleaded, wouldn’t allow Michael in the operating room since I’d be unconscious, so neither of us witnessed the birth of our only child, nor did I experience my newborn babe lying warmly on my breast.

In the dim hospital room, where I had left Michael as they rolled me down the hall to emergency surgery, they brought him his newborn son. He’s recounted the story to me several times, but since I wasn’t there I can only imagine by piecing together his details like a collage in my mind. Calvin was tiny and swaddled in cloth, not quite five pounds, with a little knit cap swallowing his head. He surely was as supple and lithe as that hare, though much, much smaller. The doctor handed him to Michael just minutes after his birth, so fragile, and—like that hare—teetering on the verge between life and death. As quickly as Calvin appeared he vanished, whisked away to a world of respirators, monitors, leads, alarms, needles and tubes, dangling in a vulnerable limbo, delicately cradled in a caring stranger’s hands.

photo by Anna Hepler

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