There are not many occasions when you are literally stopped in your tracks by something that catches your eye. This stopping is even harder when you are driving your car; but over the last couple of weeks there have been two sights that did just that. Luckily they occurred on country lanes that meant that with a quick glance in the rear view mirror I was able to pull over to investigate a bit further
The first happened early in the morning as I drove past an open field of spring wheat. A movement caught my eye, which I mistook at first for a fox or rabbit breaking cover, but as I halted I realised it was a large male hare. This buck was paused, motionless; raised up on his hind legs as if checking out the terrain, before bounding away, too fast for me to grab my camera to capture the moment.
The second occasion was a few days later on my way home from college. This time it was blur of intense blue that made me step on the brakes. The woodland on my right seemed impenetrable with nettles and brambles, but by slowly reversing I could see a gap where the grass looked trodden down. It seemed a natural footpath led beneath the trees and I picked my way carefully over it to be met by a vista of bluebells in patchy sunlight under the newly budded green trees. Ahead of me stretched a path, made not by humans but an animal track, perfect as a byway for the resident woodland creatures and a perfect stimulus to imagination.
The following poem is a result of both encounters
Freedom of the Morning
Into the field of rippling wheat
bounds a wild creature of the wood.
Stopping abruptly; briefly silhouetted
against the emergent morning sun,
the buck raises himself on his hind legs,
his large ears attuned to nature’s rhythm.
Sensing no danger, he punches the air,
as if boxing the breeze; then lopes away,
quickly disappearing into the green sea
Above the hare’s wake, a lone gull
lazily flaps across the dark trees.
Disturbed, the rookery rises
in a dark chorus of harsh condemnation;
‘kaah-kaah-kaah’ echoes into the valley,
answered by mist muffled church bells
sounding the hour, and whose spire
stands sentinel over the slumbering town,
undisturbed by either fleeting interruption
Deep in the woodland, snuffling sounds;
as a black snout emerges from the ground,
followed by myopic eyes in monochrome skull.
The earlier rain has showered the undergrowth,
leaving the air cool and fresh, its sweetness
appreciated after a night underground.
Hunger draws the brock out further from his sett,
as he moves with assured gait along a trail,
his silvery-grey pelt camouflaged by twisting birch
This confidence is justified within his coppice kingdom,
There will be no challengers this morning;
His canine adversaries are confined to kennel;
Their baying silenced for lack of scent.
Yet, as he tramples a track through
the cerulean carpet of bluebells
a heady perfume sweetens his path,
and dappled sunlight dances for joy
as creation rejoices in the freedom of the morning
Brock = This is a descriptive noun for a badger and comes from Old English and Middle English. Its origins lie in an Irish-Gaelic word ‘broc’ which means badger
*This beautiful pencil sketch of a hare is taken from a greeting card I recently purchased. The artist, Nolon Stacey, is self-taught, specialising in drawings of British wildlife, rural scenery, and farm animals. He currently lives in the Yorkshire Dales and gains inspiration from the picturesque surroundings and varied wildlife. More examples of his work, including items for sale can be found at nolanstacey.com