ampion, rampion, my beautiful rampion.” A Rabbit was rustling, foraging, and muttering in the garden at St. Clair Shores when I realized I’d dreamt myself there again. “All my working, slaving, driving myself – so good! So good! Now, the cabbage and off I go. Oh! Hello.” The Rabbit saw me when it turned into the row of cabbages where I had stopped to watch. The cabbage selected and added to its basket, the Rabbit adjusted its straw hat and, with a gesture indicating I should follow, set off toward the woods. “We must not dawdle. There is so little time left for me to paint. The time is running out.”
I had no idea what the Rabbit meant – talking about painting and carrying a basket of vegetables fresh from the garden. Maybe there were paints and brushes and canvases in that basket that I couldn’t see? We were steps away from the woods and I stopped short at the sight of a hand-lettered sign on a piece of old board: “Hundred Acre Wood.” Would I be meeting Pooh and Piglet, Kanga and Roo?
It was hard work following the Rabbit as I am human and do not fit into the same sorts of places a rabbit does, but I soon realized that our path paralleled the river and some railroad tracks. If I kept those in sight I figured I would be fine. In time I realized the composition of the forest had changed and that we had entered what must have once been an apple orchard. Once through the orchard we stepped into a clearing, dappled with sunlight and shade. The clearing was roughly a square, bordered on three sides by the hundred acre wood and by the river and railroad on the fourth side.
To my delight I saw Ham and Sam turning cartwheels, executing handstands, and rolling in the grass. Off to our right I could see a quilt laid out under some apple trees, with Teddy bears seated very sweetly near the children’s plates and cups.
I didn’t see her at first – the bear, the real bear – sitting so quietly on the quilt in the shade. My heart leapt in my chest and fear for Ham and Sam shot through my veins until I reminded myself I was dreaming and a bear at a picnic in a dream is quite acceptable.
When I had my instincts under control I was intrigued to realize that the bear appeared to be, well, meditating. She was seated, spine straight, in a bear’s version of Cobbler’s Pose. A ‘yogi bear’? She radiated serenity even as the children romped and the Rabbit rushed about almost manically asking, seemingly oblivious to her meditative posture, why she wasn’t painting. “This scene is beyond belief!”
“This view may look like a painting. That does not make it one.” She spoke. Her voice was timeless. It was the voice of the orchard, the voice of the river, the voice of the garden. She leaned forward and motioned to Ham and Sam to come to eat. She nodded toward me in invitation. “Come. Sit with me beneath this apple tree.”
Before I could accept, I was startled when a man appeared suddenly at the edge of the wood. Dressed strangely in tunic, hose, and knee-high boots, he looked as if he’d walked into the clearing from a fairy tale. “Ah, huntsman. Good day,” the Bear said in greeting. “What quarry do you hunt?”
“I have lost my way and my provisions.”
“I would be happy to direct you, huntsman, but first you must eat.”
It was a feast. Wild salmon graced the menu with the Rabbit’s produce and apples picked from the tree. While I was content to relax there on the quilt and lose myself in the beauty of the place, Ham, Sam, and the Rabbit were up as soon as the plates were clean, ready to begin painting. They stood, flushed and happy, at their easels.
The huntsman watched them for a few moments before turning to the Bear to ask, “Why aren’t you painting this?” The Bear did not answer. She simply looked at him then reached behind the tree to pull out a camera. The huntsman repeated his question. She maintained her silence.
She maintained that silence as she moved through the clearing snapping photos. We watched her back her way toward the river then turn and walk along the bank. In a bit she turned to walk back toward us, bending once to pick up something.
She approached the huntsman to present a styrofoam clamshell speared through on one of her claws, saying, “Do you see? If people like you prevail, photos and these sorts of things will be all that is left of scenes like this. Follow the trail of rubbish like this and you’ll find your way back.”
[[Test and illustrations, Barbara Butler McCoy, 2012]]