Spring & Rosy Jam

Cold air keeps the Pacific Northwest in a holding pattern between seasons, at least for us two-legged ones, but in the world of flora and fauna, where there is light there is action!  Birds are hassling each other and singing their breeding and territorial songs, the robins being the last to go to bed. The chipmunk population in our yard has exploded! (This usually means the weasel population is low, and does not bode well for garden vegetable sprouts and peas, which the chipmunks “harvest” before us!)  A cold winter left our evergreen woods less green, many dead fern fronds make for an unusual brown underbrush.  New growth from wild bleeding hearts, vanilla leaf, false lily-of-the-valley, red huckleberry and other plants are a welcome sight of new life.   Longer days means more activity not only for nature but for us,  we take after dinner walks and work outside later in the day….bundled up as though it were January!

(Click on a photo to see slideshow, or move your cursor over pictures to read captions)

Though I’ve been harvesting nettles for steaming and pesto, and munching on miner’s lettuce while walking in the woods, as these and other fresh new plants and herbs become available for a spring diet it’s also time to use up old “stock” that I’ve hoarded all winter.  I forget, a lot, I forget to add dried Calendula blossoms to soups, dried spearmint to tea blends, etc.  Out of sight out of mind in our small house where jars of this and that get stored and tucked away many places.  I was surprised, while making a tea blend for a friend with a cold, to discover a pint jar of dried rose hips I didn’t know I had. Forgetting I’d bought some last fall, I’d bought more in January!  So this year, an “Easter treat” to share is rose hips jam.  It is the easiest jam in the world to make, and not only is it tasty, but with our lingering cold weather, there are lingering colds going around.

Rose hips are packed with the disease fighting antioxidant vitamin C. I’ve collected hips, but separating the fuzzy hairs from the seeds inside the fruit, or “hip”, is a challenge.  They can be used in tea whole (thus no fuzz) if simmered a bit. When you buy rose hips you get nice little pieces of dried red hips, clean of fuzz.

Pouring water over dried hips reconstituted them. Soak overnight and you have instant jam! My pint of rose hips reconstituted when I filled the jar with water, but it was very “solid” so I mixed in: honey, (which smooths the astringent taste) and added more liquid in the form of a warm spicy infusion (tea) made from fresh ginger, a teaspoon of cinnamon chips, a few cardamom pods, and two clove buds. After simmering on the stove 30 minutes, in a teapot, I added the infusion a little at a time until I got a smooth, spreadable paste.  Spread on crackers, it goes nice with a cup of ginger spice tea!

This is a great way to get vitamin C, especially for children or anyone who prefers tasty jam over pills!

Have a lovely Easter weekend, whether you celebrate Easter or just enjoy this season of hope and renewal! Mother Nature reminds us every spring there are always new beginnings and beauty to be found regardless of outer circumstances.

 

Past Easter posts:

A Season of Celebrations, A Season for Forgiveness

Egg Enchantment

Hare Hare Everywhere

Memories of the Season

Celebrating Cycles

 

Tulips, Swans and Snow Geese

IMG_4605Yesterday we took a trip to the tulip fields of Skagit Valley. This essay is my rather pensive after-thoughts, which you can skip and just enjoy the pictures!

Lovely layers of shape and color at the Roozengaarde display garden.

Lovely layers of shape and color at the Roozengaarde display garden.

Like re-reading a book, or watching a movie you’ve watched before, revisiting places can lead to very different experiences than previous visits. We are, after all, not the same person we were yesterday, or last week, or 10 years ago. Perhaps you’ve experienced the phenomena of returning to a place of your childhood and thinking, “Wow! I remember everything as being bigger!”, well, of course it was, you were littler! It’s all a matter of perspective in the moment.

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amazing how the mucky mud nourishes such a bounty of beauty!

My first trip to the tulip fields was too long ago to still have vivid memories of it. My second visit, 9 years ago, was with Mike after a doctor’s appointment in Anacortes. I was one year into 2 ½ years of being intensely ill with 24/7 nausea. Based on doctors’ predictions, I was learning to accept being nauseous might be my every day life from now on. The tulip fields were a haven of color, a playful respite for us from medical appointments and worry.

IMG_4633A few years later I went to see the blooms on my way home from visiting my good friend, and cousin, Shaun on San Juan Island. That trip was a landmark for me, driving myself after 2 ½ years of being too sick to drive. Initially it was not an easy trip to make, but 3 days of walks, chats, and sitting among spring wild flowers, listening to Shaun talk of her passion for “her” baby oak trees and the land she loves, I felt renewed and on the road to recovery. The tulip field visit was peaceful and calm (few people visiting that day) and symbolic of finding my way back to myself. (click to read more about Shaun the Oak Lady of San Juan Island)

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behind the display garden was fields of daffodils, which are still in bloom and dot the landscape with ‘fields of gold’, just as lovely as the tulips.

Yesterday’s trip was very different. A simple day trip, it was a compromise after canceling two attempts in the past month to go away for a weekend. I’ve not been feeling well, exhausted, probably from a reoccurrence of Epstein Barr virus, and in a lot of physical pain. Traveling has become challenging for me.

Our trip to the Tetons last year, and a California trip to my niece’s wedding the previous year, left me discouraged about future travel plans. By the return trips, the joy of the destination was lost in physical pain. Even a trip an hour from home results in stiff sore legs and sciatica pain, reaching our destination I can barely get out of the car. I say ‘we’ because I no longer drive an hour away by myself, my right foot in numb pain from neuropathy, and a torn meniscus in my right knee which gets worse when I drive, makes driving even short distances undesirable.

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At the Skagit Valley Food Co-op, a favorite place to shop, I bought Mike his chocolate Easter bunny, who visited the tulip fields with us!

Today’s trip to the tulip fields was a challenge, but I was determined to go, knowing that ‘getting out of Dodge’ was important for both Mike and I. And the blue skies were irresistible. By the time we arrived in Skagit Valley I was already grumpy about bodily pain and discomfort.  Hungry, we headed to Skagit Valley Food Coop where the deli was packed with folks on lunch breaks. After a car-picnic in a local city park, we were off to the fields.

IMG_4524The color was dazzling, the fields just beginning to burst forth in their vibrant, almost psychedelic rainbows of color. But I found myself more interested in the swans flying in numerous small flocks into a field just beyond the tulips. By the time they all landed there was a ‘super flock’ of hundreds.

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IMG_4558The workers picking tulips in the fields made me wonder what it must be like to live their work-a-day life of low pay, listening to their Spanish language radio songs, chatting among themselves as they worked side-by-side while tourist’s “oohed” and “aahed” over the flowers. And I wondered why some of them wore masks.

IMG_4578The big display field at “Tulip Town” had the most blooms, and people, but was off-limits to me, I could not walk the distance from car to the ‘entry point’. Over the years the tulip fields have become, out of necessity, a more managed tourist destination. I was able to take a few distant pictures, it reminded me of a surreal Peter Max style painting!

IMG_4604Roozengaarde display gardens were busy but not too crowded. There were enough people  it was not easy to sit and ‘soak’ in the color and beauty of the carefully laid out patterns of blooms, and for me it was not easy to keep walking.


IMG_4650As it turned out, the highlight of the day was not the tulips but the swarm of white birds we saw in the distance, moving as one, turning, banking, turning again. A graceful bird ballet. We followed them and found ourselves watching a massive flock of snow geese settle into a field.

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This close up photo shows only a small number of the Snow Geese. I took many videos of their noisy, moving feast.

One of my hoped for trips a month ago was to the Snow Geese Festival, which I’ve wanted to go to for years.  I was very grateful for this unexpected opportunity to watch, in awe, literally thousands of birds in such a feeding frenzy as to hardly pay notice to the cluster of human “gawkers” who gathered. (see video below to hear and watch the snow geese)

We left the Snow Geese, went into La Conner, which was quiet and ‘sleepy’, stores beginning to close at 5:00. After a simple supper at a picnic table on the river we started the trip back to the (very packed out!) evening ferry.

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The display garden has many different bulb flowers, loved this highly scented hyacinth display!

It was not the predictable fields of vivid color that will stay in my memory of this day, nor did I feel the peacefulness of previous trips to the fields, it’s the ‘chance’ events of the day – watching hundreds of swans in flight, seeing thousands of Snow Geese swarm, land, feed, even watching the field workers, the real energy behind the surreal bonanza of tulip bloom each year.  It was a good day. Of course I wish was not in pain.  (and I wish Abby had not gotten sick.)  There is a sadness knowing such a simple day trip was so physically uncomfortable.  I’m learning to accept a life that stays closer to home.  As I look at the woods out the window and the bouquet of tulips we have from ‘our’ local tulip field at Red Dog Farm, I am grateful home is a lovely place to be – and stay.

Happy Easter all! IMG_4634

For more “Eastery”  posts from past years, you can read about, and see pictures of, eggs and bunnies at these links:

Egg EnchantmentA Season of CelebrationHare Hare Everywhere

 

Memories of the Season

Been wanting to write something Easterly or springy, but the mind has darted and danced around in other places this week. Yes, Easter and spring are in the “air”, a favorite time of year for me, a time when Nature expounds on and explodes with rebirth and rejuvenation, setting a fine and beautiful example for new beginnings.  Yet, as much as I feel those energies, I am drawn to my inner world of memories and concerns.

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gorgeous flowering tree in Carrie Blake Park, a favorite dog walking spot of ours in Sequim. I took mom there once to see the ducks.

Concerns are cancer related. A short reprieve from a medication ends. I am to go back on it…for five years.  I have questions doctors and internet searches can’t answer, symptoms and side-effects difficult to live with, and fears hard to set aside. In other words, I’m human, living in a body that doesn’t always cooperate with the program. Watching the PBS 6 hour documentary this week on the history, ups and downs of knowledge, treatments, and attitudes about cancer reminds me cancer is a foreign landscape we still know relatively little about. The film ended with a recent “theory” – each person experiences cancer uniquely. How it manifests in someone makes it their own personal disease, explaining wide variations of response to treatments. I’ve observed this in myself and those I know who have struggled with cancer, whether they chose ‘conventional’ or holistic approaches to treatment. Interestedly, it seems allopathic medicine is recognizing what ancient healing modalities, such as Ayurveda, have known for thousands of years….. it is the person that needs to be treated, not the disease. Latest cancer treatment research focuses on bolstering the immune response in an individual. Unfortunately, these treatments are still in the research stage and been used successfully for only certain cancers. IMG_1244Well, I did not want this post to be about cancer, it’s only one of the mind distractions.  The other does have to do with the season. This week is not only Easter, April 3 is my mom’s birthday, the first she is not here to celebrate. She would have been 94. This year it comes as Easter weekend unfolds. For the past decade Mike and I have spent every Easter with mom, and we have celebrated each of her birthdays with fanfare!  Over the years we’ve taken her on fun trips around her birthday, had parties with friends and family, sometimes just had quiet, lazy weekends here watching spring unfold in the woods. Mom loved Nature as much as I. She enjoyed the watching the hummingbirds at the hot pink flowering currant bush, the bumblebees in the crocuses and rhododendrons, and like a child, she never lost her appreciation for the wonder of the spring eggs laid in abundance by our chickens and ducks, just in time for Easter……and her birthday.

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Flowering current blossom, when they bloom the hummingbirds arrive!

Mom was a holiday person. Every traditional holiday was celebrated at home during our growing up years. Decorations, carefully packed away, were brought out for Christmas, Valentine’s Day, St Patrick’s Day, Easter, etc.  As she aged, she continued to do so in her home on a smaller scale, but in the last years, the roles reversed and I would set up her decorations, always buying and adding some new, pretty little item just to give her something. It was my way of thanking her for all the years she brightened our lives with holiday celebrations.  We live in a culture deficient in rituals and celebrations and I always enjoyed and appreciated the little ways she honored the holidays.

Mom

Happy April memories: Mom with Easter animals, a birthday orchid in front of flowering currant, an Easter picnic 2 yrs. ago., her lovely smile on her 90th birthday. Center, one of my favorite photos of mom as a young person.

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My ‘woven’ egg.

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Last year’s post, Egg Enchantment, showed the little window eggs I make. This little green chick lived in an old chicken egg, from my childhood, that broke. It is now housed in a sturdy new duck egg home!

So I’m missing Mom. Missing doing something for her. Missing showing her the fresh eggs laid by our young duck, sharing with her new ways of decorating them, showing her the new daffodils we planted, blooming brightly in the sun. There are sad memories mixed in with happy ones.  Last year she had a major fall a few days before her birthday, leaving her spirit shook and her face bruised.  We took her out for a birthday lunch and she was quiet, but enjoyed a hardy meal.  A second fall a few weeks later, on Easter Sunday, resulted in a stroke that went undetected until I arrived and noticed her struggling with speech. Inadequate care at the adult family home she moved to just a few months earlier required a second move. But though I am ‘free’ of the extreme stress, management, demands and ‘crises’ of her care, I’m also void of the person with whom I have shared the simple pleasures of Easter and spring throughout my life. With her April birthday, and Mother’s Day a month later, spring, Easter, and the joys of watching life unfold, are all wrapped up with Mom memories in my heart and mind.

That’s all. Thanks for reading as I indulge in a bit of wallowing.

Wishing you all

Happy Easter/Spring!

Celebrate however fits your beliefs, but DO celebrate! Find someone to celebrate and share this joyous time of year with, or do so in honor of my mom!  😌

Enjoy previous Spring posts:  Egg Enchantment,  Hare Hare Everywhere,  A Season of Celebrations, A Season of Forgiveness.

A memorial page for Mom: Ruth Hubbard

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A little bunny weaving to wish you Happy Easter!

Egg Enchantment

IMG_8725It’s been a few years since I pulled the boxes of Easter decorations out of the attic. Among the bunnies and a few misc. decorations are egg boxes filled with colored eggs. Full of personal history, delightful whimsy, and beautiful colors, many of the eggs have become very fragile over the years. Some, already cracked or broken, are still carefully tucked into the boxes, too precious to part with.

Eggs seem to hold within their ovoid shape a magic that has captured human fascination forever. Books and the internet are full of stunningly bejeweled, intricately painted, and carefully carved eggs. I share with you some of my more humble collection.

A basket filled with an assortment of dyed eggs. Decades of raising bantam chickens and Muscovy ducks gave me an abundance of eggs to ‘play’ with, using natural dyes, food coloring, oil dyes, and various techniques for decorating them.IMG_8708

Growing up I was enchanted by the few ‘window eggs’ we had. I found the large, hard-shelled Muscovy eggs perfect for my own creations.

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Though Paulie Rollins, a remarkable, talented artist who lived in Quilcene, raised many breeds of poultry herself, she would take all the duck eggs I would give her. In trade she gave me a few of her beautifully hand painted eggs. Sadly, a few have broken, including the little forget-me-not egg in the lower right corner. I met Paulie through her daughters’ involvement in Girl Scouts. She moved away, but recently I found she has a web site of her beautiful art. http://paulierollinsart.blogspot.com/

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In 1987 I traveled to Sweden and Germany to visit friends in each place who I had met when they were traveling in the USA. I wanted to be in Germany during the Easter season because many of our Easter traditions have Germanic origins. Spending the Easter holidays with my friend Shiva in Nuremberg was a memorable experience. Previous to the holiday we traveled throughout Bavaria. Many towns had a town square with an Easter egg tree. Nuremberg is famous for it’s Ostermarkt (Easter Market), a huge market in the town square with vendors selling many crafts (and some non-crafts). I was so enchanted, I kept going back to the market to buy more eggs, each in it’s own individual box. Like most the eggs at the market, the ones pictured are from Yugoslavia. When I flew home I carried on the plane a basket full of two dozen hand painted eggs, many of which I gave away. Here are a few of them. There is more I could share about my Easter in Germany, a culture rich in both sacred and folk traditions. I did adopt the tradition of making a small Easter tree inside each year. Not this year, so no pictures.

IMG_8749One egg…..two sidesIMG_8745

 

 

 

IMG_8746 This cute little lamb reminds me of another German Easter tradition, a lamb cake. The cake Shiva made was simply and traditionally decorated with powdered sugar, and of course scrumptious!

IMG_8738This chick seems to be offering up praises as it reaches for the berries!

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My good friend Terra painted for me the lovely egg pictured below probably 30 years ago, using the same techniques used by Ukrainian artists to paint eggs.  It is not hollow, but rather left to dry, the yolk becoming like a rubber ball inside. This is how the intricately painted Ukrainian eggs are preserved, making an egg that will last for years and be less fragile than a hollowed egg. This egg sits in a special little clay bird’s nest made by Phoebe of Daily Bird Pottery.

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IMG_8791When a chicken lays it’s first egg it is often small, sometimes as tiny as a songbird egg. Called a ‘pullet’ egg, because the hen is in her ‘pullet’ (think teen-ager) stage. I’ve saved many of these small eggs over the years. Some, too tiny to blow out, I let dry in the frig for a year before decorating. (The photo left shows a Muscovy duck egg, which is a little larger than a store bought “jumbo” egg, a small banty egg, and a tiny pullet egg compared to a quarter.) Below a small glass “basket”is full of dyed and un-dyed pullet eggs.

IMG_8787The two eggs in the upper left corner in the basket below were decorated when I was a child with dyes that ‘floated’ on the water. I always remembered doing these and loved the swirling rainbow effect. With my abundance of eggs to experiment with, one year I went looking for and found similar dyes and made a new ‘batch’. The new dyes were thick oils, they produced vivid colors and felt thick on the egg. I love the colors, but wish I could find the more muted rainbow dyes of my childhood that seemed to absorb into the shell.IMG_8771Speaking of old eggs!  Here are some vintage paper eggs, also fragile with age. Remember these honey-combed paper eggs?IMG_8757

There is more I could write about Easter eggs, and eggs in general, but you might be egged-out by now! Though we no longer have hens laying eggs, there is a box full of duck eggs from a very broody duck, and a container of carefully dried and preserved little bantam eggs in the frig waiting for decorating magic!

IMG_8785Wishing you a lovely and peaceful Easter!

Past Posts related to Easter, eggs, and early spring:  Hare Hare Everywhere,  A Season of Celebrations A Season of Forgiveness, Fall Food and Eggs, Primulas, The Magic of Trilliums

 

 

A Season of Celebrations, A Season for Forgiveness

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went looking for color today in Nature, these lovely primroses, in yellow & pink, are a carpet of bright cheer in our garden.

This is a week of celebrations. Whether you are celebrating Holi, the Hindu Festival of Color, a time of mirth and playfulness, or the Christian Holy Week, in observation of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, or the Jewish Festival of Unleavened Bread, or Passover – it is a season associated with renewal and rejuvenation, a time of rejoicing and liberation.

Here in the northern hemisphere spring officially arrived last week, an event celebrated for eons by most cultures with rites and rituals.  As with Holi festivities, Nature celebrates with the arrival of rainbows of color – in the sky during spring rains on a sunny day, and in plants bursting forth with vivid colors to attract waking pollinators. “We’ve survived winter!” said our ancestors, “its time to get outside, plant, work hard, and start the cycle all over. But first let’s celebrate!”DSC00725

Hindu celebrations of Holi have an abandonment to them, a loosening of decorum as women join together with men in rambunctious festivities that involve spraying powder or liquid color on one another and other prankish behaviors.  I’ve read there is a saying “It’s okay, its Holi!” There is forgiveness build in to the lightheartedness.  There seems to be many legends as to the origin of Holi, most have to do with Krishna, perhaps the original prankster who, as a young man, would tease the Gopis and steal cheese from the village women, but he was always forgiven due to his loving sweetness (of course there were, and are, spiritual lessons to be taught through his behavior.)

Easter also has a strong element of forgiveness, what greater example of forgiveness is there than Jesus’ proclamation, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” as his crucifiers gambled for his clothes.  The spirit of rebirth and hope celebrated on Easter Sunday follows the act of forgiveness on Good Friday.DSC03212

Forgiveness often has ’heaviness’ to it as people ponder the act of forgiving small slights to huge atrocities committed by individuals or groups.  Sometimes the most difficult is self-forgiveness for our own shortcomings.  If you read stories of people who have forgiven those who committed heinous acts against them, there is always an element of release so they could move forward, lightening up to begin anew.  I would suggest you know when you have truly forgiven by those attributes – the letting go of bitterness and being able to move forward.  On the other side of forgiveness is a place of light and lightness, ‘spring cleaning’ ones heart in preparation for rebirth and rejuvenation.

Is there forgiveness in Nature? I believe so. When I see a clear-cut, previously scarred, and often burned, full of blooming foxgloves, or watch a dog wag its tail, ready for a pat after being yelled at, I think Nature sets a fine example for forgiveness. (Flowers covering human scars on the earth, animals instinctively showing loyalty for what could be considered the need for food, may not be your idea of Nature exhibiting forgiveness, but try to imagine it as such, and indulge me!).  There have been studies of chimpanzees who clearly exhibited acts of forgiveness. They share 98.4% of our DNA, apparently forgiveness is in that shared DNA.

Though International Forgiveness Day is in August, I would venture that this season of joy and renewal is also a season of forgiveness, for in the forgiving we open ourselves to, and leave room for, the joyousness of rejuvenation. The theme of triumph over evil is present in the Easter story of Jesus and many of the Holi stories of Krishna.  Passover, another spring holiday, celebrates liberation from oppression. Spring rites, older than all of these religious celebrations, celebrate victory over the darkness and harshness of winter. A victors heart is a forgiving heart.

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bright spring colors
for Holi, the Festival of Color!

Whatever you celebrate this week – Holi, Easter, Spring, or one of the many other spring holidays and celebrations found throughout the world, begin with forgiveness – feel the freedom of a “lightened load” – then let the joy in!

You are encouraged to share in the comments sections your own religious, spiritual, personal spring celebrations of renewal.

Hare Hare Everywhere

Wishing a  beautiful, and hopefully sunny, Easter weekend to my blog friends.

I have quite a collection of bunny pictures. I call them bunnies, other folks call them rabbits, but it is the snowshoe hare who lives amongst us.  The legend of the Easter bunny is a story about a snowshoe hare.

Eostre, or Ostara, is the Germanic goddess (whence the word Easter is derived) of fertility (estrogen is also named after her). It is her job to bring spring to the cold wintry world, but one year she was late, which brought all kinds of havoc, including the near death of a small bird whose wings had frozen.  Eostre held the bird, bringing it back to life, then, since it couldn’t fly, turned it into a snowshoe hare and kept it as a pet, though some versions say it was her lover.  She named it Lepus (Lepus Americanus is the Latin name for snowshoe hares) and gave it the gift of laying colored eggs, to remind it of its bird origins. One day Eostre got upset with her hare and threw it into the sky, where it remains today as the constellation Lepus, lying at the feet of Orion the hunter (not a good place for a hare, or any animal).  Later Eostre soften a bit and allowed Lepus to come back to earth one day a year, in the spring, to lay his beautiful eggs. He would lay them in hidden places so they wouldn’t be found and eaten.  Eostre’s hare became Easter’s bunny, its eggs – Easter eggs, symbols of rebirth for spring rites, and looking for the hidden eggs became egg hunts and Easter baskets.  Or so the story goes.

I have great respect for goddesses, legends, and cultural traditions, but I like my hares plain and simple.  I find them quite magical just the way they are.  Unlike rabbits, whose babies are born with their eyes closed, ‘real’ hares not only don’t lay eggs, but give birth to babies with their eyes open, unique among the world of mammals.  Born fully furred and mobile, snowshoe hares venture out on their own very young.  Given their place in the food chain, it is remarkable any survive.  We once found a very tiny hare in our lawn, perhaps it had been grabbed, then dropped, by some predator.  It appeared to have a broken leg so we brought it in, raised it until it seemed healed, then released it.

young hare 'hiding' in dirt under our eave

Solitary young snowshoe hares hide in various places, coming together at mom’s to nurse several times a day.  At four weeks they are on their own.  Hare’s enjoy naps and dust baths, which may explain why the little one that showed up in our yard last year sat very still throughout the day in the dry dirt under the eave of our house.  Though not really hidden, it might have felt protected – being such a tiny fur ball, it blended into the rocky dirt.

it would come out to munch on rose leaves

So far no hares have arrived this spring. Unlike Eostre’s Lepus, they don’t necessarily appear at Easter.  The delightful weaving of pre-Christian symbols for renewal and rebirth with the Christian story of resurrection results in a season of optimism and new beginnings.  May your basket overflow with the blessings and hope of the season.