Friday, August 30, 2013

Why I do the IPE (Armstrong Fair)

It is that time of year.  The time for the Interior Provincial Exhibition in Armstrong.  The time that Armstrong swells to triple its size (or more).  The time of bad traffic, difficult (but not really expensive) parking and the midway.  Over the 20 IPE's I have lived in the area for we really have gone to only a few.  From time to time (what feels like forever ago) when my kids were young, I would take them to the IPE.  I wanted to look at the animals.  They wanted to go on the rides.  It was hot and dusty, or it was rainy and muddy but we had fun.  I remember one time in particular.  It would have been in 2001.  I was still recovering from 2 broken legs and was in a wheelchair but had figured out how to drive.  I went with Kaetlyn and Drew and Rhiannon was a babe in arms... or in my lap in the wheelchair, at least.  It was a muddy year and Kaetlyn and Drew pushed me in the wheelchair through the mud.  I remember a friendly but large pig sticking his nose out between the slats of his pen right at Rhiannon's face level and scaring the crap out of her!

For whatever reasons, it was a long time before we went again.  It became a time for a Calgary visit for back-to-school shopping.  Calaway Park was so much more fun than the midway.

Then things changed again.  No more kids in the school system.  Clothes shopping ceased being an 'event'.  And it found us in town during the fair.  So, 2 years ago, we decided to try entering some rabbits in the fair and we got involved in volunteering in the rabbit barn.  We had SO much fun!  Which led to last year where we entered ALOT of rabbits in the rabbit barn and ended up being the ONLY volunteer...  Not so much fun...  Which led to this year where in the end, we entered a few rabbits in the fair, volunteered for a limited number of days (2 - I'm done already!) and (before I entered any rabbits) made sure that there were sufficient volunteers to properly care for them.

This year it is definitely not as fun.  A disinterested-almost-13-year-old is not a fun companion at the fair.  She's only there for the rides, anyway.  Although I like to look at the exhibits, I don't have anyone who likes to look at them with me.  And the fair stupidly (in my opinion) moved all the hobbies over to the Norval arena which is as far away from the bunny barn as you can get and is actually across the street and not on the fair grounds.  So, with lack of companionship to motivate me, I never made it there.

Rides, animals, cakes and zucchinis aside, that's not why I do the fair.  Why I do the fair is this.  For most of the time that I am volunteering in the bunny barn, I sit in a chair with a rabbit in my arms.  And the children come.  Animals in general and especially rabbits bring something out in people.  Perhaps because they are unlike dogs and cats who are predators like us, they are prey and so we must interact differently with them.  We must be gentle, move slowly, calm down.  I see it in children but especially in toddlers.  The wonder in their eyes as they reach out their hands and touch the rabbit - their innate ability to connect without words or instructions.  I feel it in the rabbit in my arms as it relaxes and connects with the child.  Some need only a touch.  Some stand beside me for a long time, petting the rabbit.  For those who are big enough, some I will even let hold the rabbit if it isn't busy.  They sit there in the chair and it looks like a prayer.  Head bowed, eyes in a far away place as they pet the rabbit and wonder at that warm body snuggled into them, trusting them, accepting their affection.  It is a sacred thing in those few moments where soul connects to soul.  I see it in some adults, too.  They are often apologetic, too.  They often murmur something like, "I had a rabbit when I was a child" or "my husband is allergic"...  And its amazing how many adults won't touch the rabbit when invited by the children they are with - that connection to the natural world too suppressed or feeling too vulnerable to enjoy the satin-y softness of a rabbit.  But for these children, for that sacred connection, that is why I do the fair, despite the noise, and mess, the crowds and the dirt.

1 comment:

Laura said...

i saw it on your face while you held your rabbits and had children touching them--it was something special to you. thanks for sharing about it. i would have liked to look at more exhibits--too bad.