Hare brains

Yesterday evening, just after supper, we watched a hare loping around the house just under the windows, not doing anything in particular, nibbling a bit here and there. For once, we thought to try and take a few photos, through rainy windows though so as not to frighten it away by opening them.

Later, walking Finbar before bedtime, the fox was there again by the boundary fence. All three of us were startled when a pair of barn owls swooped between us, screeching like banshees. Magic (again) !


The neighbour says they know,

they taste the air around the house

and sense a peaceful calm,

like birds that know the lazy cat, replete,

will not even stir a paw.

They come up close she says

when the house is still, the light is silent,

timid things that race away when danger strikes.

There’s something in the scent of meadow grass,

the scent of man-not-killer

around houses such as hers, as mine.

I watch the way she bends and parts the weeds,

not uprooting—they need their space too—

finger-skin cracked and black with ingrained earth,

how she listens to the song of every bird,

and in the slow, measured sweep of her hands

the bow of her back

through the crook of finger and the tilt of her head

she builds a place of safety





Published by

Jane Dougherty

I used to do lots of things I didn't much enjoy. Now I am officially a writer. It's what I always wanted to be.

55 thoughts on “Hare brains”

    1. The farmers tell us there used to be a lot more ‘game’ not so long ago. The milk quotas put all the small dairy producers out of business and they’ve all gone over to cereals, which means ripping up hedges and planting the stuff imposed by the big companies. The landscape was completely pastoral fifteen/twenty years ago.

      1. It’s tragic. In our community the local authority gives grants to people willing to replant hedges. None of the farms are big here and some of the farmers say they’ll replant here and there, but so much agricultural land has been abandoned, good enough for pasture but not for cereals, and some of it has been built on. They tend to be the kind of people who like squared off laylandia hedges and close-shaved lawns. Not interested in wild hedges at all.

      2. I bet if human beings had a longer lifespan like a couple of hundred years, the people in power would be making damn sure the earth wasn’t going to die before them.

      3. We could do a test, give a few highly valuable members of society like Trump and Kim an extra 100 years of life and see if they change their minds about what’s destroying the planet. Then again…

  1. What magic around you–wise neighbor, hares, foxes, owls!
    Lovely poem that swirls us into it. 🙂

    Last night, I was looking out an upstairs window, trying to figure out which birds were singing, and I noticed some creatures high up in the oak tree. The sun was starting to go down, and they blended in with the branches. There were two, and husband and I finally decided that they were (or might be) baby raccoons.

    1. I’m pleased we’ve got to know this neighbour. We don’t have many (five apart from her) and the others are all the kind who shave their lawns, and are thrilled to bits when the municipal hedgetrimmer ransacks the trees and hedges and shaves off all the wicked poppies and orchids that cause traffic accidents.
      I hope it’s raccoons and I hope they grow and have more baby raccoons. We need more raccoons in this world and fewer awful people.

      1. I’m happy for you that have someone who isn’t one of those awful hunter people living nearby. We probably always have raccoons here, but we don’t always see them. As long as they don’t try to take up residence in our house like one mama raccoon did–with her several babies–I’m fine with having them around. They weren’t actually IN the house, but outside the attic window, in the eaves.

      2. I bet they make a bit of a din if they get inside!
        Most of the people around here, especially the women dislike the hunting. It’s a man thing, and only a tiny minority of them (about 0.7% of the population). Where she is a bit special is that she dislikes the ‘tidy it up’ attitude of some of the people who’ve moved into the countryside and start to ‘dominate’ it. We get a lot of advice from this kind of neat person about what we ought to do if we want to be ‘the master’. They think of it as a struggle against the evil forces of nature. The neighbour has other ideas 🙂

      3. She probably doesn’t tolerate bugs in the house but she is emphatic about no bug killer on the land. If fruit flies eat the cherries, tough.

  2. The critters do get to know who is safe to be near. You become just another critter, busy about your business. The chipmunks treat me as invisible and that is something. The only critters that run — besides the feral cats — are the squirrels as I chase them and woof.

    1. Ha ha! Do you chase the feral cats too?
      When I walk Finbar before bedtime, I take a flashlight (have to there’s no light otherwise) and see critter eyes. The predators seem to know that there’s a person behind the light, but the deer the hares and rabbits just stare at the light and go back to doing what they’re doing. Often the deer appear to be just lying down having a rest.

      1. No need to chase the cats, they keep their distance. There’s an actual term for shining a light into deer’s eyes: shining. It’s illegal here, as poachers know the deer won’t run with a bright light in their eyes. You are a brave person to go out into total darkness with a flashlight! I would love to see owls flying.

      2. A couple of times this spring I’ve crossed the path of men with lamps on their heads. I suspected they were poachers.
        I don’t go out alone though. I have a big brave dog with me. Big anyway.
        The owls were tremendous. I’ve seen them occasionally but never had them fly so close, and a pair too.

  3. Lovely post. Pure magic when stuff like owls and jackals and hares and dogs happen, all at the same time. I saw a rheebuck outside the other day, not quite grown and it was playing among the monkeys and baboons, sprinting there, running back over there. Sheer, sheer delight. My camera was far away somewhere and if I moved off it would’ve ran. So I just watched.

    1. Young deer playing are wonderful. They mothers bring them round here to play probably because nobody bothers them. They’ll leave them running about, wander off over the stream. It means they feel safe.

      1. No one here who would shoot them. Only very few people on this little stretch of road. I have, however, found traps, or snares which I immediately take apart and remove altogether. I find a guy setting a snare I stick his head in there myself and pull the wire taut!

      2. That’s what I like to hear. No mercy. I wouldn’t shed a tear if some of those big-gutted so-called hunters we get received the same treatment.

  4. Lovely Jane.
    We saw a pair of hares on a travels the other day, just sitting by the roadside. Luckily, they turned and returned to the safety of the hedgerow rather than run out in front of us. They were huge!

    1. When you’re used to seeing rabbits they look massive. The first time I saw one up close, when we started one down by the stream and it ran in front of us I thought it was a young deer!

      1. Maggie went haring off after one (excuse pun) when we had the caravan, and it’s the only time she totally ignored us calling her back. She ran across a field of corn stubble and cut her feet to ribbons but had so enjoyed the chase, she didn’t realise. Hubby had to carry her most of the next day as her feet were so tender, bless her.

      2. Poor Maggie. Same thing happened with Finbar late one evening when we first arrived here. We didn’t even know if he knew the way home. He came limping back eventually having jumped through several hedges. He was bleeding all over.

      3. He’s shredded himself since on brambles and stones, but we don’t let him loose any more unless it’s broad daylight and someone has checked on the lane that there’s nobody in sight. He just runs and runs otherwise.

      1. Or people idealize it and want to keep people totally out of it. We’ve lost our ability to be part of the world.

      2. Yes, I notice that often in photos with lurid photoshopped colours of sunsets and cottages smothered in neon glowing flowers. As if the natural colours were somehow not quite awesome enough.

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