Bertram, an old white rabbit, paused at the edge of the forest. He had just been out grazing in the meadow but it was time now, as the sun was rising fully, to head back into the forest before people were about. This morning’s dawn had been spectacular, thought Bertram, and that was an auspicious omen for the start of a new year. If the day started well at the beginning of a new year, then folks believed that the year would be a prosperous and joyous one. Bertram hoped they were right, as he hopped back into the forest.
As he hopped, Bertram mused about the past year and thinking of his family, which had grown so large that maybe they needed to find a new burrow. He was so lost in thought that he didn’t pay much attention to where he was going. After all, he went this way every morning and every evening. It wasn’t as if he didn’t know the way by heart.
All of a sudden Bertram stopped. He heard loud snoring ahead and that shouldn’t be. Bertram looked around. He was in a part of the forest that he’d never seen before. How could this be, he wondered, and more to the point, what could possibly be snoring that loudly? It wasn’t a rabbit, that was certain. Bertram cautiously hopped on, hoping that whatever was snoring would keep right on snoring and that he soon would recognize where he was. Imagine how silly he would sound when he told his family he’d gotten lost in the woods! They would all laugh and then he’d caution the youngest in his family that if an old rabbit like him could get lost, so could they and they all knew the woods were not always a friendly place.
Bertram hopped over a log and kept moving east. At least the sun was up, although it was hard to see in this part of the forest which was very dense indeed, denser than Bertram had seen, but east was east and soon he should be somewhere familiar he thought as he hopped onwards. The snoring was getting louder and that wasn’t comforting at all, but Bertram knew he had to go east to find his home. As quietly as he could manage, and as quickly as an aged rabbit could go, Bertram soldiered onwards.
All of a sudden he heard a booming voice, “Who goes there?”
Bertram realized the snoring had stopped. Oh dear, he thought, but he answered as politely as he was able in a quavering voice, “It is I, Bertram, an aged rabbit.”
“What are you doing here, aged Bertram?” asked the voice.
“I was out on the meadow having my breakfast and then I headed home but I was thinking over the past year as I guess most folks do as a new year arrives, and I can’t imagine how it happened, but I am now lost. I mean no harm,” concluded Bertram.
Bertram heard a chuckling sound and then the voice continued, “You are quite correct, and it is a new year, and with the new year come changes. Even the forest must change, and I am now in charge of this area as you were before me.”
“But what about my family,” asked Bertram, now really concerned.
“They are fine, and you also are safe. Changes must happen, but they don’t have to be horrible. I am in charge of the forest for this next year, and I prefer a denser forest with a large cave for my home, so that is just what the forest provided me with. The forest changes to meet the needs of its inhabitants, but your burrow, which by the way I decided needed enlarging with your every growing family, is just ahead. We are neighbors now,” concluded the voice.
“Thank you,” answered Bertram. “I hope we will be good neighbors. I would like to meet you properly.”
“Would you indeed,” answered the voice. “Then step forward, following my voice, and we shall talk face to face.”
Bertram hopped forward and soon he was at the entrance to a very large cave. He gasped and jumped backwards when he discovered a dragon, curled in the entrance to the cave, watching him with a smile on her face. “Good morning, Bertram! I am Juniper, and I will be guarding you and all the other creatures of the forest. You have nothing to fear from me.”
“Good morning, Juniper,” replied Bertram, a bit hesitantly. As Bertram was thinking what a large dragon Juniper was, he heard the happy noises of his youngest relations. They were racing and soon appeared, hopping and tumbling and literally rolling into Juniper. Bertram was alarmed until Juniper laughed and cuddled with the rabbits. Soon one of the smallest rabbits caught sight of Bertram and quickly announced, “Morning, Grandfather. Look what we found while you were at breakfast! With Juniper living next door we don’t have any worries at all!”
Bertram pondered. The young seemed to adapt to changes so much more quickly than he did, but Bertram smiled and realized that the new year was off to a very good, if very different, start. It would be a grand year, he decided.