It is a well known fact that hares are magical. All sorts of magic. Witches transform themselves into hares. There’s a hare in the moon. They have a hundred names – pintail, ring-the-hill, race-the-wind, dew-hopper…
There’s so much folklore to hares. Rabbits are placid, domestic, prosaic. Hares are wild and mysterious. Rabbits are numerous. Hares are solitary. Rabbits are timid. Hares are speed personified. Rabbits belong to the earth, but hares belong to the moon. They leap.
We see hares here. Occasionally. Frequently enough to hope to see them, seldom enough that seeing them is a thrill. Our holy trinity is the deer, the owl and the hare – and the hare is the rarest. Once or twice we’ve seen them in a field of stubble. We stand still, hardly breathing, and the hare sits still. We are trying not to move, the hare is all potential movement – movement held motionless. We eke out the moment, then the hare moves, suddenly, and it’s all over.
Sometimes there’s one in the lane as we drive home. It will run in front of the car, a zig-zag run. We have deep lanes round here – hedges on top of grassed over drystone walls. We’ll follow for maybe quarter of a mile, then suddenly the hare will find a gap or a gateway and it will be gone.
Years ago, when the kids were younger, we had a holiday in County Clare with my husband’s brother. We stayed in a small hotel. My son had a fruit platter for breakfast, and for a while after that he made himself fruit platters. We did a walk that reminded me of something, and then I discovered that Tolkein had spent time in that area and I realised it was Lord of the Rings territory.
On our first evening at the hotel we left the kids and the brother-in-law and went for a walk up the hill. It was the golden hour before sunset – the light was very beautiful. It’s limestone country, and we climbed up and over a low ridge. There was a limestone pavement in front of us, and maybe a dozen hares, just lolloping around, just hanging out together. They were Irish hares, browner, leaner, tougher looking than the grey-tinged English hares we see at home. Still with the mad ears and the hump-backed gait. We watched them for as long as we could. Somewhere there’s a photograph of me, sitting on a stretch of warmed limestone (clints and grykes), grinning, because sometimes you have a perfect moment.