Thursday, March 11, 2010
The wind is rising, and so is the temperature. The first green patches have re-emerged in my garden, and there are rumours of a thaw after what seems weeks of a china-blue freeze over a white land. So I took my skis out again, back to the hares on the hill, while I still can.
I saw only one or two at first. They sprang up out of hollows; the sound of the wind must have stopped them hearing my approach. In a normal winter, I'm used to spotting them easily, white against dark heather. But this year, seen against snow, I see more clearly why they're called 'blue hares', following with my eyes their smoky, off-white coats as they loped away.
Suddenly, when I got up to about 1500 feet, there were 30 or 40 of them, widely spaced but fleeing in the same trajectory, uphill, away from me . Once they'd gained the relevant distance, they stopped simultaneously, sat, frozen again, offering me a series of triangular profiles like unbreathing sentinels guarding the hillside.
I heard a snippet on In Our Time on Radio 4 this morning, about Boudica, who used a hare in her uprising against the Roman Empire, releasing it from her skirts as a form of divination in battle. Perhaps it was the idea of this mystic run that tempted me out onto the hill again.