It was a May morning in the Badlands, and characteristically cold as I rose at 4 A.M. to watch the sun clear the horizon.  I drove to an eastern-facing path and walked out on the moonscape where I stood, chilled and awed, as the surrounding buttes and spires came into soft blue light.  Meadowlarks welcomed the morning with me, their melody the only audible sound.

I bent to light sage and sweet grass, and bathed in the soothing smoke as it lifted around me in the dawning mist. I stayed until the warm golden light replaced the blue, and the rocky terrain shimmered with heat.  It was still very early, and the day promised to be a scorcher.  I felt light and at peace as I walked back up the path to my car.  The world was beautiful in this moment, and I cherished the reprieve.  As I came to the end of the path and turned toward the parking lot, I spotted a tiny rabbit nibbling grass not a yard away from my sandaled feet.

I stopped walking and watched. The rabbit continued to eat, watching me.  I said hello.  I told the rabbit it was beautiful.  It took another blade of grass and chewed.  I thanked the little creature for letting me visit during breakfast.  The rabbit continued to chew, slowly, as it sat there, still watching me, in silence.  My heart filled at this great gift, this proximity, this community with a tiny creature who lived in this place that I love.

“You have a beautiful home,” I said, “thank you for sharing it with me.”  Another blade of grass, more silent chewing – the little rabbit watched, apparently relaxed, as I stood tall above, still talking in my softest voice.  “Be careful out there,” I said, glancing toward the sage grass where a park service sign warned of rattlesnakes. I thanked the little being again as I stepped slowly away, returned to my car, glad for this beautiful start to my day.

That day my estranged mother passed – quietly, unexpectedly – and far, far away.