Yesterday in the late afternoon, walking by the edge of the high fields above our village, I met with a hare, feeding on the rich new grass growing between the winding tractor tracks.
I stopped and stood motionless. The hare was around 20 metres away - tawny grey with blackish ears. It turned its head toward me and I expected it to take off, but instead it ambled towards me along the path, stopping to nibble at another clump of grass. Now that it was a little closer I could see that its ears were slender and though mainly black were edged with vibrant white. It held them folded down along its neck but on turning its head would raise them suddenly, as if flashing me a V.
It came closer. It was about 10 metres away. My first impression was that it looked young.
I know almost nothing about hares and though my entire hare awareness had grown infinitely richer all in the space of ten minutes, I had little idea of whether, for a hare, it was large or small. Maybe my sense that it was young had something to do with its innocence in not immediately registering me as a threat. In any case, I began to doubt my first impressions as its white underbelly seemed drawn down as if weighty with milk. Was it a nursing mother?
(Even as I write, I sense the hare experts - of which there are undoubtedly several amongst my readers - reaching for their keyboards)
All this time, I had settled into a state of still immobility. I decided that I would not move whilst the encounter persisted. And she (because, by now, it seemed she was a she) came still closer.
When she was just five meters away she turned her head and I saw her perfect roundel eye.
Then she was walking towards me, high on her legs - almost like a small deer, I recall thinking - except for those amazing, slender ears, raised again in a V
And then what happened? I think it must have been me. I must have shifted a little, hesitated or something.
She turned and ran off down the path and into the field. There was nothing frantic or panicked about her exit.
It is a very strange thing - but it feels to me that I was the one who decided to end the encounter - and I don't know quite why.
I am coming to believe that the creatures with whom we share this world are conscious - not in the same way that people are, but each in their own way - distinct and wonderful.