rabbits and skin horses

 I’d never payed much attention to The Velveteen Rabbit before.  It was probably read to me as a child at least once, I’m sure I read it to my son.  A few nights ago my daughter picked it out for her bedtime story.  I told her it looked like a long one, maybe we’ll do half tonight and half the next night.  So I started to read and was so touched by it that I kept reading aloud even after she fell asleep just before the end.

As I was reading I taken by this conversation between the rabbit who is confused and feels alone, and the wise skin horse who’s been around a generation or two.

“What is real?” asked the rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender before nana came to tide the room.  “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse.  “It’s a thing that happens to you.  When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse for he was always truthful. “when you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse.  “You become.  It takes a long time.  That is why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.  Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby.  But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

This made me think about all that has happened in my life the past few years.  Amongst all the hard stuff that was beginning, and all the wonderful things that were beginning, I had a desire to grow, to change, and to do more than just live by skimming the surface.  I’d already faced some of my demons and won.  I thought I was doing pretty well at the time.  I was doing pretty well at the time, I just didn’t realize how much more was to come.  I won’t recount those things, I’ve already written about most of them here, but I remember a point where I said to my shocked self “you don’t even know who you are”  And that was scary.  Bit by bit I’ve kept climbing, sometimes taking long rests, on the path of self discovery, change, and learing to care for and about myself.  There were so many times when I thought I couldn’t go any farther, that my edges were too sharp, that I would break too easily.  I found strength in God, in my own “skin horses”, and in myself.  I don’t know about my eyes falling out or becoming shabby, but I do know growth often requires a loss of innocence and it frequently hurts.

“He longed to become Real, to know what it felt like; and yet the idea of growing shabby and losing his eyes and whiskers was rather sad.  He wished that he could become it without these uncomfortable things happening to him.”

In the end, after narrowly escaping being burnt, the velveteen rabbit is laying in woods saddened by his memories of being with the boy he loved.  As he begins to cry, and as his tear touches the ground it brings about his greatest desire, he become a real live bunny.

After I wrote this post I found the absolute perfect poem for this moment –

Written by
Linda Martin

I chanced upon a dream one night
Where I was sitting face to face
With a shabby little rabbit
Within a childhood place

His fur was soft like velveteen
But spots were worn and bald
His eyes were somewhat droopy
His whiskers scrunched and mauled

The little rabbit spoke to me
Just like a wise old sage
He said “I brought you back to when
You were such a tender age”

“Remember who you used to be
With wonder in your heart?
This REALness of your one true self
Was lost and did depart”

“To gain the shards of destiny
Lost to the worldly din
All you need is trust yourself
And lovingly look within”

“You don’t understand” I said to him
“You speak of love and trust
These are what I gave away
Now in my heart are crushed”

Then the droopy eyes held mine
And one more thing he spoke
“REALness happens most of all
Just when your heart is broke”

“The wounding of the broken heart
Is when love’s funeral fire is burning
But the fire only burns the dross
And leaves love’s gold enduring

When the hurting gaping wound
Is drained of all its grief
Love’s pure gold that’s left behind
Becomes your soul’s relief

When this golden treasure
Comes home to soul’s own worth
That’s when the magic happens
And death turns into birth”

The little rabbit winked at me
And gave a knowing grin –
“Being REAL is love’s return
To its rightful place within”

Then the dawn light summoned me
From this amazing dream
But a REALness glowed within my heart
With Love’s golden treasure gleam

I knew right then without a doubt
That life’s an ebb and flow
Of love we keep and give away
And loss refines its glow

The wisdom from the velveteen
Is when love’s loss we feel
There is a suffering and a dying
That brings the magic to be REAL

18 thoughts on “rabbits and skin horses

  1. Sara says:

    Ally, that was a wonderful post. Your ongoing persistence in your journey has taken courage. It is inspiring!

  2. mouse says:

    Omg Ally wonderfully expressed!


  3. Joss says:


    I enjoyed the post.


  4. “growth often requires a loss of innocence and it frequently hurts”

    A truly beautiful posting Ally, thank you so much.

    love and hugs xxx

  5. Kelly says:

    I can’t tell you what this post means to me. My gosh, it’s exactly what I feel trying to know God. I am crying. This touched me right to my core. Thank you. Thank you.

  6. greengirl says:

    You are one of the most real people I know, exactly like this.

  7. I found my way here via elle…Your post made me smile very much. It was my mother’s favorite story. When I was in my mid 20’s she gave me a copy…not for my son, but for me. She said, I want to become real…I hope you do too.

    I have never forgotten that and it did indeed become my goal in life.

    Blessings on your journey!

    • Ally says:

      wunderkindred, Almost everyone has heard of The Velveteen Rabbit, I can’t believe I never payed any attention to it before. It is such a sweet story. I know there is so much more to it than I covered. Thanks for commenting!

  8. Tapestry says:

    I too, found my way here via Elle, a thoughtful, inspiring, and awesome blogger in her own right. So when she suggests reading something written by another I know it must be extraordinary. And indeed, you have touched my heart deeply.
    Thank you for sharing.

    • Ally says:

      Tapestry, I do love elle too and agree 100%, she is very inspriring and insightful. I am so honored that she mentioned my post. I am glad that you liked it too. Thank you for commenting!

  9. Ally, there are so many simple life lessons in children’s story books. I’ve read to my children too and have been just as touched and influenced by the wisdom there. This is a beautiful one. I also didn’t discover The Velveteen Rabbit and it’s wisdom until I read it to my kids as an adult.

    I do believe that the fearful feelings of becoming shabby and having our eyes fall out speaks of the vulnerability we expose ourselves to when we allow ourselves to love and be loved. Learning to trust, and be confident that it’s OK to be that worn out and raw from exposure to breakage and hurt. But the rewards of becoming “real”, of REALLY knowing deep and passionate love, is the ultimate reward.

    We don’t all go at the same pace, based our own past experiences and situations coupled with our own temperaments and then we blend all of the same things with those of the ones we love, or are learning to love or even just creating a deeper love with. Muesli.

    Pace, I believe is unimportant in the scheme of things. It’s never a race, which I am constantly reminding myself of, b/c I tend to want to hurry up and get there. We all need to go slowly or quickly as is comfortable. I think as long as we’re making progress, we know we’re heading in the right direction, and that’s the most important thing.

    For others, going too fast is frightening. We have to be comfortable with the idea of becoming “shabby” and understand that we are still loveable in that condition. Anyone who only wants perfection on the outside, isn’t interested in finding “real”.

    I hope you don’t mind that I wrote this all out here. I realize that you were saying a lot of this in your post. I needed to write it out in my own words for me, and to share with anyone reading. I wonder if others see it this way too?

    I’m not familiar with the accompanying poem which is beautiful. 🙂

    • Ally says:

      Elysia, I liked you perception on becoming shabby. It totally makes sense and I hadn’t thought about it exactly that way. Thanks for sharing that. Good point about going at your own pace too. I am usually full steam ahead, and sometimes that is not the best way. I definately do not mind you writing all that out, as always, thanks for your input.


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