Several years ago I was having breakfast with my wacky, wonderful friend Tesi. We were talking about this and that, when out of the blue she asked, "What's your totem animal?" I said I didn't have one. She said, "Close your eyes. The first animal you see, that's your totem animal." I did as instructed, and who should leap into the dark receptacle of my imaginings, but Jackrabbit.
A jackrabbit (Lepus spp.) is actually a hare. And the difference between a rabbit and a hare—besides the longer ears of the latter? Several: They have very different lifestyles, for starters, with hares living fully above ground, while rabbits live socially in burrow or warren systems (an exception being the various species of American cottontail, Sylvilagus). Hares (and cottontails) rely on running, not burrowing, for protection. Newborn hares (called leverets) are precocial—that is, fully
developed at birth, furred with open eyes—while newborn rabbits
(kittens or kits) are altricial—born undeveloped, with closed eyes, no fur, and an
inability to regulate their own temperature. Rabbits don't leave the nest until they are several weeks old, whereas leverets are able to fend for themselves pretty much right off the bat. Hares also have a longer gestation than rabbits.
But what about a jackrabbit as a totem symbol? Googling got me this: "If jackrabbit is your power animal, you are alert and never box yourself into a corner." Pretty true. "You always plan for an escape exit, should the need arise." Well, there I've gotten better at sticking things out, reminding myself that even the most unpleasant experience will have an end. "You are quick-witted, peaceful, talented, and a survivor." Quick-witted I'm not so sure about, but the others—sure. "The role of victim is not appropriate in your business or personal relationships." Also true. "Jackrabbit's message is, always be alert. When walking in a strange neighborhood, pay attention to your surroundings. Keep away from your enemies; you know who they are." Well, except I don't have any enemies. And I tend to stay out of the parts of town where there might be enemies. But always alert? I do notice things, but it's not in a watchful way; more in a curious way. So, alert, yes, but not in the sense of being fearful. "Learn to 'freeze' when you want to avoid detection." Ah, that I'm very good at—at least, I've always felt fairly invisible (Chameleon might be the more appropriate totem animal in that regard), though over the years I've accepted, even embraced, the fact that some people do notice me, and for good reason. "You are fertile with new ideas." I'm fertile with distractability, that's for sure. But yes, I could choose to look at my distractability in a positive light.
What brought Jackrabbit to mind today? On our afternoon walk in a "fairy tale" oak woodland, one of our regular destinations, we were looking for a good spot to plant a new geocache. We'd wandered off the small trail onto an animal track. As we entered a relatively clear area, I heard a rustling, and then saw the lithe body and long black-tipped ears of . . . a jackrabbit, bounding away from us! I always feel so very lucky when I see a jackrabbit!
(The first photo has no attribution that I can find—so thank you, whoever took it. The second one is courtesy of Daniel Streifel.)