Lessons from the Rabbit of the Waves

Source

Such excruciating pain.

On the cape of Keta, in what is now known as Inaba, a long retinue of men from Izumo marched by, laughing. “Please,” I begged “ease this pain!” Blood seeped from every inch of my body, the fur stripped away, revealing flesh below — sensitive, painful flesh.

Finally, one of the men said “Hey, you! Are you a rabbit? You sure donʻt look like one. Look at you, so red-pink bloody. Where is your fine white coat?” I could barely choke out a sad, weak plea for help. Another man said, “Listen, rabbit, if you are in such pain, hereʻs what to do. Go roll in the salt water at Hakuto. When you have done that, stand in the wind, and let it dry you off. You should feel much better then.”

The men sat down, and watched as I limped to Hakuto beach. The waves there looked much bigger than me, but closing my eyes, I bundled my nerves, and took a leap into an oncoming wave.

“Aiiiiiiiiiiiii!!!” My scream surely must have pierced the heavens. “This burns like the irons of a thousand oni!” The men on shore laughed uproariously as I struggled to swim back to the beach. Tumbled about in sand and surf, I finally managed to crawl out of the sea. Every bit of me was on fire. Tears of pain coursed down my face, dripping off my whiskers.

Then a man cried “The wind! Stand in the wind to dry the water off! Youʻll feel much cooler.” I hobbled over to a little rise, and stood to catch the wind. “ITAIIIIII!!!!!” The wind hurt even worse if that was possible, a whip on my already fiercely burning skin. The men laughed even harder, as they stood up and resumed their march. The tears fell off the tip of my nose, dripping and disappearing into the sand. 
 
 Then, a single youth appeared. He was younger than the other men, and struggling under the burden of what must have been all the baggage that the men had packed, but who themselves refused to carry. He looked at me.

“Surely, you have yet another cruel torture for me. Spare me and walk on. Ignore my suffering.” But the man dropped his load, and ran over to me. “Oh, poor rabbit! How have you come to suffer so much?” His eyes began to pool and a large tear fell to the sand next to mine. 
 
 I dared not hope. “Please, if you have a grain of kindness in you, please help me ease this pain.”

“Look, little one, see the stream here? Bathe yourself there, wash the crust of salt and blood away.” Hesitantly, I hopped down the stream bank. The cool smell of mud, of fresh water, of rains in the mountains, rose in my nostrils. My nose twitched, and gingerly, I took small hops into the water. Ahhhhhhh, could it be that the youth spoke truth? Meanwhile, the youth gathered cat-tails, laying them on a soft cloth, and shaking them, their fine pollen fell off. “Come, little rabbit, come and see what I have prepared for you.” Weakly, I hopped up the bank. “Roll, little one, in this pollen. It will heal your ravaged skin.” I trustingly followed his directions, rolling in the fragrant yellow powder.

Lo, a miracle happened! The whip of the wind, the burn of the salt water, the pain of the flaying, all began to quiet, and for the first time since the horror started, the red film of pain that had obscured my vision began to fade. A mild itching began, first on my back, then spreading down my sides, to my stomach, tail, face, and then my paws. I scratched, and was amazed to find . . . soft, luxurious, shining white fur again, pure as snow. Hopping in a circle to see my tail, I realized, I was whole again! I could not help but to leap as high up in the air as I could, dancing on the sand, the wind catching my fur.

I turned and saw the youth, struggling under his burden back onto the road, to catch up to the others. “Wait!!!” I cried. “Please, let me tell you my story in gratitude to you before you leave. Before you found me in such horrible state, I leapt on the backs of the Wanizame as a bridge from O-Kinoshima to Keta, having convinced them that I would count each one so that we could see who had the more numerous clan. Foolishly, as I reached the last one, I taunted them for their gullibility. Ahhhh, if only I had waited until I was safely upon the sands! Instead, before I could leap onto the back of the last Wanizame, he turned, snarling, and grabbed me in his horrible jaws, shaking me so terribly that I was thrown clean out of my skin, flayed completely. I managed to scamper up here, where your brothers found me, as the Wanizame swam off with my fur as a prize.”

Idle cruelty,

Pointless pain; rather, temper

Justice with mercy.

The youth stood, dumbfounded.

“What is your name, kind one?”
 
 ”O-Namuchi-no-Kami (the ignorant, innocent one of the gods). I am accompanying my seventy-nine princely brothers from Izumo to woo the beautiful O-Yagami-hime, Princess of Inaba.”

“Know, dear prince, that I am O-Namiusagi-no-Kami (the Rabbit of the Waves God.) Your kindheartedness and humility prove your inner purity. Therefore, you shall be known as O-Kuninushi-no-Kami, the Father of the Nation God. It shall be your hand that O-Yagami will choose as her husband, and you yourself will become the founder of a great nation of men yet to come, in future days to be known as Japan.”

The youth gasped in shock, then bowed deeply before me; I returned it, our hearts bound in gratitude, wonder, and humility.

Wave Rabbit’s children

Surround you, waiting; kindness

Is its own reward.

This haibun is part of the Hands in Haibun collaboration. The prose is written by the alleged kat. Visit the original post at:
One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.