People round here agree that hares have had a good summer. They’ve come out of the woodwork, and now I see them two or three times a day on the hill and the low ground by the river. I hope it’s more than a good summer; it’d be fine to think that they’re on the rise.
And there is one hare who has begun to stand out. It’s quite fitting that hares are usually given feminine pronouns (she’s a fine hare, look at her go), but this one feels boyish and saucy. He comes up the close and into the yard with a nod and a whistle like a postman; he makes what he will of the vegetable garden; in the half-light before dawn, I watch him slinking bow-backed beyond the wood stacks and the cattle pens. I don’t know how he learned to be so bold, and I was stunned to find that he has been in the hayshed below my office window, quietly munching through my winter stores. But in mentioning him to a neighbour, I find that he has a hare doing similar – walking through his yard and with hardly a care in the world. That creature had better tread softly; those collies are not always chained and no amount of speed can save you when you’re hemmed between an oil tank and a sheep fank.
There is something deeply satisfying in this; that we are being infiltrated by hares. When I first saw my hare coming up the close, I was thrilled – it was an exciting moment. But no sooner had he gone than I was bugged by a thought. That hare did not look like it was coming into my yard for the first time. In fact, it looked like he was well into the routine of it. And then I’m left to wonder how many times I have been visited and overlooked by hares in the darkness, plotting their routes and learning about this place in the night when I am blinded by lightbulbs and computer screens.