About a hundred feet from my patio stands a large pine tree. Beneath its spreading branches a couple of rabbits have made their home.
I see them hopping about, nibbling the grass, chasing each other, and, on occasion, jumping cleanly over each other in joyous abandon, a perfect example of joie de vivre.
I have seen them hop on to my patio and contemplate which plant to nibble.
Sometimes they look me straight in the eye as if asking my permission, I think. They have realized I am an animal lover, I can do them no harm. Plus, cuteness has its advantages.
But the sky above is patrolled by a falcon. I see it sailing effortlessly above, riding the thermals on its powerful wings with its eyes focused on the furry creatures below. On occasion, it will skim low, just above the ground, reminding everyone of its lethal presence. Sometimes, I have seen it in a near vertical dive, wingtips bent back for maximum speed, drop like a thunderbolt from the sky on a poor unsuspecting squirrel or field-mouse. It would then fly to a nearby tree for a well-deserved meal. Or, at other times, it would sit on a convenient rooftop like a medieval potentate calmly surveying its domain.
One summer evening I was relaxing in a lounge chair on my patio watching the rabbits under the tree. The sun was low on the western horizon. The air was warm, fragrant with the scent of roses from the bushes close by.
I was about to doze off when I saw a flash of brown and white streaking towards the pine tree. I was instantly awake. It was the falcon.
It flew down and alighted at the base of the pine tree where a second before a rabbit was playing. It stretched its neck below the lower branches attempting to find the rabbit.
Then it walked along the circumference of the tree (walked, not flew) looking for its prey. The rabbit appeared on the other side of the tree diametrically opposite the falcon. It calmly looked at the fierce predator as if daring it to pounce with the trunk and branches of the pine between them. The falcon and the rabbit continued their game of ‘Catch Me if You Can’, walking slowly and deliberately around the tree, the falcon trying to catch the rabbit, the rabbit daring it to.
Suddenly the rabbit streaked towards a safer, denser hedge, running for dear life. The falcon gave chase but was a fraction of a second too late. This time it flew but the rabbit was faster. It disappeared. The falcon gave up the hunt, flew up to a tree and waited for the rabbit to show itself again.
But it was harassed by the local mockingbirds who dived-bombed incessantly until it was forced to fly away. Chalk one up for the rabbit.
I had never thought I would see a falcon and a rabbit stare eyeball to eyeball along the base of a pine tree playing ‘Catch me if You Can’. The rabbit could have been the falcon’s dinner but it stared death in the face and came out the winner. Soon after the falcon had flown away, it reappeared, calmly nibbling the grass once again as if nothing untoward had transpired. It was just a game.
Lesson learned: What is life but a game. Learn the rules. Play well and enjoy it while you can!