They say it’s because of the rain. Increased rain typically accounts for increased bunny populations. More rain … more food … more bunny babies. Many of us have noticed a bunny boom this summer. And with it comes the unmistakable, unforgettable, dance of happy rabbits – a dance known as the “binky” – a leaping, twisting, turning, tumbling expression of pure joy. (There’s even something called a “half binky,” involving a twisting and flicking of the head and ears only – more like a wink and a giggle, I suppose.)
In spite of the scorching heat, the dripping humidity, the sometimes suffocating air, and all the other complaints humans have during this sweltering summer, these delightful creatures find reason to dance in joyfulness: The binky dance. (Seriously. This is the real name given to it.)
I’ve learned that here in the southeast, our most plentiful rabbit population is the cottontail. They, like their cousins the hares, build nests above ground but stay quiet and hidden throughout most of the daylight hours. They tend to their families at dusk and dawn. But the nighttime is savored for social gatherings, for foraging, for playing, for romping and running free-form under the stars, for dancing in the glow of the moon – until the thickening shadows of daybreak call them back to their nests.
I’ve also discovered that the binky can be danced alone, with a partner, or in groups. It can involve any number of other gentle, willing, participants – including humans (if we are very fortunate and mind our manners). Rabbits can be quite generous and egalitarian with their invitations to join in or at least peek at the party. But together or alone, with or without an audience, whenever and wherever the joy strikes, the binky will be danced.
Perhaps this affinity with uninhibited night dancing and generally playing about after dark accounts for the long-fabled connection between rabbits and the moon. From Native American myths to the Aztecs to Egypt to Europe to the cultures of the Far East, stories involving interactions between the moon and earth rabbits flourish.
Ancient Chinese folklore says the hare is the messenger of a moon goddess, and the guardian of all wild animals on earth. In early Celtic tradition, old wise women had the ability to shape shift themselves into hares during the full moon, and so it was forbidden to ever eat a rabbit.
And one rather famous Chinese legend features a beautiful girl named Chang-o who has been living on the moon for longer than 4,000 years – banished there for stealing the secret to immortality from her husband. Her sole companion is a large rabbit who can be seen standing on his hind legs in the shade of a cinnamon tree. Even the crew of Apollo 11 was cautioned by Houston to look for the lady and the rabbit just before the first moon landing in 1969. No sighting was recorded, however. (Of course, the girl and the bunny could have just been off dancing the binky on the dark side of the moon at the time.)
It’s dark now. The moon is high. I am sitting on my front porch, watching with anticipation across the night shadows on the lawn. Watching for the rabbits and their invitation to the dance. And I wonder if, just for the moment, I can simply slip away from the seriousness of the world. If I can escape from the thorns and brambles of life. And stretch my legs from the confines of my safely hidden nest. Perhaps, just for the pure joy of it, I will leap and twist and turn and tumble and dance the binky with bunnies till dawn.