Thursday, 14 March 2013

Easter hare story

Or some personal ruminations about Graeme's new painting: "The straw kingdom".

In the Adelaide Hills, (or the Fleurieu Peninsula to be specific), rabbits are plentiful.  Every morning two or three who reside by the road scatter this way and that across the gravel in front of the car as we make our way down the lane on our daily trip to school.  Those rabbit-y ears don’t ever seem to be put to much use in the case of these little local souls who make dodging my vehicle a daily occurrence.  Can they not hear me approaching?  The top-notch (or crested) pigeons are equally blasé about a 3 tonne car heading toward them (albeit at a slow pace) and I wonder too about their ability to discern imminent danger.  I know that both the pigeons and the rabbits are the descendants of many generations who have lived in this same set of hollows by the roadside, so either their chosen survival skills are just not obvious to me, or the few people who drive on this particular dirt road are all very aware of the wildlife (probably a bit of both).

The wiliest of all the locals is the hare.  We have a few hares living on the property, I know of one who I suspect lives over the back hills who can be seen leaping across the dry paddocks at twilight like a streak, a flicker of flowing movement, almost completely camouflaged with the dry grasses, his speeding body set against the static paddock the only giveaway to the observer.

A second lives on the other side of the property near the main gate.  There is a small rise that lies alongside the driveway and this hare, male or female I cannot tell, will sit upright, alone and alert and use this rise as a vantage point but bound instantly away on hearing a car or a footstep or the small noise the gate makes as it swings on its hinges on opening.

Hares are larger creatures than the rabbit, longer in the leg; his back legs seem almost too long for his body, the fur on his back is all those soft tones of brown and taupe, but his under body is white.  He has a short, racy tail that is black on top and white underneath and the best bit, the very best bit, are the hare’s ears, long and black at the tips.  The hare’s eyes are set on either side of the head giving him great powers of observation of his habitat.

Hares don’t dig burrows, but live in the grasses; they make what’s called a form or a shape in the tall grasses.  Their young are called leverets and are born in the form with the long grass to protect them.  Their mother separates the leverets into several forms in the vicinity and visits each form every night to feed her babies.  After four weeks or so, the leverets are able to begin their adult life.  My father, my husband and myself are all keen to capture the hare on camera, but so elusive are they that even after years and years of careful watching, not one of us has managed even a blurry shot.

I always consider it a sign of good fortune when I come upon a hare. I say to myself, ‘it’s going to be a good day tomorrow’ (if I see the hare in the twilight) and if lucky enough to encounter one early in the morning, it sort of sets me up for the day and I feel I’ve been blessed with good tidings.

My husband is an artist and he feels similarly about hares and their relation to good fortune.  When driving through the countryside, there have often been occasions where a passenger exclaims ‘oh, oh, look; a hare, a hare!’ and the poor driver misses out on witnessing that elegance of form, that noble stance.  We feel the same way in terms of luck about shooting stars, but in the case of shooting stars you can stay up for hours and eventually both see one simultaneously, this is very rare in the case of the hare.

Graeme loves to paint hares, he adores their natural and innate nobility, and I thought you would like to see his latest work completed today, as we’re leading up to Easter I thought the subject matter would be perfect.  The hare is sitting atop an ottoman fashioned from the sorts of grasses hares create their forms with.  Pure Graeme Townsend gentle wit and twist on careful observation.  I hope you enjoy looking at the painting, alas, I don’t get to live with it, even for a few days, the painting is off to the gallery and I hope it will find a lovely home soon.

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