The Leaping Hare

Monday morning. It’s cold, we had snow again in the night and there’s a bitter wind. My feet slip on the icy road and so I step onto the verge, frosted leaves crunching underfoot. I’m late this morning, it’s almost 7.30, the sun is up and the sky, heavy with snow is tinged pink in the distance. I turn into the woods, a subdued chatter among the birds as I make my way up the hill, promising myself the reward of far reaching views over the fields when I make it to the top.

A sudden flash of brown on the path ahead of me makes me stop and look more closely. At first I think it’s a dog, but then it stops, stares directly at me, whiskers twitching, long ears lifted high above his head. A hare. The first I’ve seen up close since autumn when they danced over the scrubby, newly ploughed fields. I hold my breath, willing him closer, but no, he lifts a hind leg to scratch, he sniffs the air and then he turns, leaping into the undergrowth.

I stay still, trying to freeze frame the moment, to remember our encounter and be able to pull it from my memory later when I’m sat at my desk, paperwork piled up around me. Snow is falling steadily now, catching on the bitter wind and swirling around me. I pick up my pace and stride forwards along the narrow path, past crumbling dry stone walls and gorse bushes until I reach the clearing. The fields, dusted with snow lie spread in front of me, a farm house, lights still on, a quad bike making its way across the field of sheep, hay piled high on top. I wave to the driver, a farmer I’ve never met, yet we’re on nodding terms as our morning routines often collide on my walks over his fields.

My glasses are wet with snow, I take them off, unable to focus on the scene in front of me, but able to picture it all in minute detail. A year on since we moved, this landscape is becoming more familiar to me. I turn and head for home, disappointed I was too late this morning to be serenaded by the owls.

My fingers are cold, the tips of my ears burn and I pull my hat further down over my ears, pulling my buff up and over my face as I break into a trot – I want to be home before the dog walkers invade the woods and scare away the wildlife – I feel the need for solitude, to recall the hare, the tree creeper making her way up a silver birch, the fleeting glimpse of a heron flying over on his way to the river.

I reach the road, making my way more cautiously along the road back down to the house. My neighbour’s dog spots me, tail wagging, we slow down, exchange “Hello” and “Blimey that’s quite a wind chill”, before separating, she across the fields towards the church, me to home, hot coffee and a warm shower.

Photo by Vincent van Zalinge, you can follow his beautiful wildlife images on Instagram

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