Sunday, August 5, 2018

Loving things that don't love you back

I never expected to love Fluffball. She was brought to me by a five year-old's desire for a pet and my own desire to feel less guilty about not offering the five year-old a sibling. I thought I was bringing home something reasonably cute that would hop around the backyard a bit, eat grass and die a sweet, rapid death. Perfect. I was a good parent. She got to see how annoying pets were and I could temporarily appease the swampy feeling of denying her a lifelong companion with a ball of white fluff that required no meat in a can, no walks and no episiotomy - just some fresh hay and a bit of chopped greens and whatever. The occasional picking up of a poopoo pellet that had hitched a ride from the litter tray to the kitchen floor on the fluff of her inner thighs. 

I expected nothing of Fluffball. But perhaps not surprisingly I instantly wanted more. Nothing more alluring than someone who gives you nothing. It was impossible that she couldn't love me - at least a bit - over time. They say bunnies don't learn, but she was toilet-trained. Surely I could love-train her. Dogs love. Cats love. Things with fur love. Mice? Well. Fluffball didn't love. Her indifference was insufferable. She didn't like hugs - well, she didn't like being picked up, and once in your arms would immediately freeze, her heart beating so fast it was impossible to declare that she was loving it. Now, sometimes, her heart rate slows right down and you can convince yourself she is content. But that is as far as you get. And each day, no matter how much she has enjoyed the hug, go to reach out for her and she's off like lightning, bounding behind the loquat tree, or rabbit-punching your hand if you get too close. 

Today I realised I feel much the same way about Fluffball as I do about this blog - and the irony/mysticism of how the physical incarnation of its mascot came to live eight years later in my backyard/house has not been lost on me. That same white bunny on the postcard from the Pompidou library, contemplating itself in a candle-lit mirror, right now nibbling at a cable beneath my feet. Finnish artist Pekka Jylhä's rabbit is taxidermied, and though mine is quite alive and has floppy ears rather than pointy-uppy ones, it shares exactly the same capacities for affection and contemplation. Zero and much. I often see Fluffball's white body, dwarfed by the grass around her, staring up at the moon in the afternoon sky. 

She came to me. That wondering, existentially-challenged bunny. Via parenthood, my daughter's own mind, via a last-minute move to a house with a backyard in Australia. I had no say in it. She just arrived.

And I've noticed that she and the blog are teaching me the same lesson. I think it's about giving love to things that don't love you back. The purpose of the blog was always to be an empty space for me to pour ideas into without looking for a response. A space to love without expecting love in return. A place to speak without trying to please anyone else, or fit a format. 

It was hard at first - with both bunnies. I spent days trying to woo Fluffball with grass, parsley, exotic bunny treats. Months trying to get her to enjoy the cuddles, to leap up on my lap as I wrote, to enjoy my company. Just as at first I became obsessed with the statistics on the blog - was anyone reading? Were they liking it? Was there any point to it?

With Fluffball, I stopped trying for a while. After all - as my husband reminded me - she's a bunny. She is ok with leftover celery, with crummy grains, with a litter tray that wasn't regularly cleaned. She didn't need love. She just needed basic survival.

I tried to pull away. I became more and more remote from Fluffball until I stopped giving her any love, treating her like the regular animal she is. Grains. Water. Leaves. Vegetables. Tray. Worm treatment. Outside. Inside. Scoot! And I noticed something. She seemed fine. But it got me down. 

After a few weeks I was really, really down. Looking after Fluffball was like making your bed. What's the point? But when you do it, there is a difference. Only in you. Nobody sees your bed. You're just going to get back in it. But it somehow makes you feel better (I have only recently discovered), especially when you smooth it down and arrange the pillows. It was the same with Fluffball. SHE didn't notice my level of love and care. But I noticed. Loving her was like loving myself. And the more I gave her despite her ignorance, the more my own love and respect for myself increased. Ah, I heard a voice in my head say. Zen. I could love just as hard and full with or without her. It felt good to just feed Fluffball, and keep her life clean and tidy, though it had no point. The feeling got better and better. She never changed, one bit. 

Now I try like crazy to make Fluffball happy. I cut her the loveliest vegetables. Clean her tray daily. Pat and cuddle her mortified body and tell her in French how much I love her (she speaks and understands French, though she speaks and understands nothing.) By giving nothing she makes me more me. Which sounds selfish, but I don't care. She doesn't care how I feel, so why should I care if I am an arrogant asshole who sees only herself when she looks into the eyes of a bunny rabbit. But I do feel like I'm looking into something vast when I look into Fluffball's empty eyes. They are empty, but they're not. They're full of my longing, and my love, and in some way she is receiving it, but maybe she's not. Love is present. That's all I know. 

And who knows, she might be receiving it. 

But again, that's not the point. 

The point is, it's there. 


Same with this blog. I don't know what it is for or why I do it, but it feels good when I do. And the more I tend to it, the better I feel. And like Fluffball's vast, empty eyes tell me, the point is there is no point. 

Pekka Jylhä 'Tear Dryer' 2003


  1. I love you back enough for me and many fluffballs xx

  2. I finally read this.. It only reminded me of how much I love reading your writing. I have a visible expression on my face as I read you. it moves from smiles to surprise to just relaxed satisfaction. brava my dearest.. you describe it all with wonder xxx

  3. Marissa just sent this to me. We were face-timing as I was chasing my (children's) bunnies around the house. It made me laugh so's beautifully written and observed. Thanks angel. I am officially a fan. Xx