After wandering the furthest reaches of the tulip fields in beautiful Skagit Valley, Mt. Vernon, Washington, and me holding our granddaughter the whole time (I wouldn’t give her up), I needed a break from walking and so sat down on the bench outside the gift shop as the girls wandered inside.
The bench was busy, occupied as it was with shoulder-to-shoulder happily-tired explorers having returned from capturing on camera – as if it were possible – the brilliance of never-ending color stretching as far as the eye could see, flowers upon flowers, as seen through the old barn knothole, bathing in spectacular beauty the landscape clear to the hazy foothills of the mountains in the far distance.
As is typical everywhere we go, a small crowd immediately began gathering as if the little head barely visible were a magnet for these once-upon-a-time mothers and grandmothers still.
I unwrapped her from where she was cuddled beneath my jacket protecting her from the occasional cold gust of wind and one of the tour from Seattle said, “She is so beautiful!”
“Yes,” I replied. “We found her out among the tulips.”
“Oh, please tell me where,” she laughed. “I want one too.”
So did William Roozen (“which means ‘roses’ in Dutch”) who was blessed with 35 grandchildren, along with so many Tulips, Daffodils and Irises on more than 2,000 acres that his Washington Bulb Company is the largest in the world.
Raising tulips, and raising family, generation upon generation – since the mid-1700’s in Holland – bulbs and babies, they’re both a draw for beholders of beauty.
The two sisters exited the gift shop with not one, but two – one purchased by each of them because they couldn’t decide which was cutest – of the softest, impossibly long lop-eared, scraggle-furred, stuffed rabbits affectionally – per the tag – named ‘Harey’, or, actually Harey One, and Harey Two.
Harey, like already our granddaughter, has quite a story.
Harey hails from Cricket Island, and his tale began with one of the worst commercial fishing disasters in U.S. history, one that would take the lives 14 Anacortes fishermen lost to “the eighty-knot winds, subzero temperatures, and mountainous waves” that often describe the treacherous waters of the Bering Sea.
“Lost At Sea An American Tragedy” is Patrick Dillon’s account of the Valentine’s Day, 1983 disappearance without a trace of the entire crew of the two state-of-the-art crabbing vessels.
Within its pages is found “a moving portrait of courage and love.”
Two sisters, Krystal Kirkpatrick and Suzanne Knutson, lost a father, an uncle and a cousin that fateful day. A few years later they would lose their brother in another fishing accident.
They began stitching bunnies to keep their hands busy and to knit together the pieces of their shattered lives.
That’s the message accompanying Harey and his many Cricket Island friends created by the sisters in their Bunnies By The Bay industry: “Everything can be rescued and mended, even broken hearts.”
We know, and perhaps readers here do too, brokenness. But we also know beauty. We see it every day in her face, her smile, her dimpled hand that clutches the ear of Harey.
One day, when she learns to walk, she’ll drag it wherever she goes, around the house, through mud puddles, and on her own tulip field adventures.
One day one of the ears of the bunny will have come off, and it will be the saddest looking, sweetest treasure, most-loved little rabbit.
A bunny born of tragedy will have taken on a life of beauty, and in our memories we will cherish – if that were possible – the discovery that from such endings come new beginnings, and the mendings of broken hearts.
Photos by Christina Klas and her father, the author of this article.