This is the story:
These days the shock of looking into the mirror in the morning was only alleviated by the fact that her failing eyesight cast a Hollywood soft focus on her reflection. The years had dulled her features and coarsened her hair, though she retained a thick mane of whitening chestnut, tied roughly back in what her mother had described as a top-knot.
She had always enjoyed wearing make-up, to accentuate her green-grey eyes with thick Kohl, warrior like and she would spend pleasant moments experimenting with shimmery gold, green and purple powders. She went through the routine every morning, so that she could recognise herself – though the effort seemed less important as the lines around her eyes deepened daily, stretching down her face like delicate cracks in porcelain.
“I need to stop laughing!” She laughed to herself.
She collected things;
Blackened beads to lay down roots,
Delicate feathers for protection;
Pure herbs for scent and shoots,
Mysterious willow pattern for vision;
Gilded tea leaves to allure,
Pressed dragonfly wings for healing;
Arcane poetry to restore,
Treasured Tarot cards for dealing;
Glassy bones to cast and bind,
Autumn Pagan spells to tie;
Parched skulls to draw and rewind
And gleaming wisdom to purify;
Silver rose petals, for love long-lost,
Glossy crows, discarded tears;
Secret fruits in dawn’s first frost,
Green symbols to predict the years.
But mostly she collected images of animals.
If it could have been possible for her to collect the real thing she would have; but life doesn’t always work out the way you want, so images would have to do.
Photographs, films, drawings, paintings – and most of all VISIONS, kept in her head and in her heart; her soul vibrated with creatures.
If she touched a dog, felt its velvet softness, smelt its musty breath, warm fur and toasty feet, she would store this all in her sensory library. The glint of an eye, the shiny wetness of a nose, the excited wag of a tail – all sealed in.
It gave her an overwhelming ability to empathise with any animal she had seen or met.
But the animal that she felt most drawn to (a good turn of phrase, as she would compulsively draw them too) was the hare. She was obsessed!
It had happened by accident; like most people she had always thought of hares as larger rabbits; She had glimpsed them from a distance through a train window and thought
“Must be a hare; too big for a rabbit.”
And left it at that; they were too far away to add any specific details to her visual library.
But then on a late summer, rainy afternoon she came face to face with one. Hares aren’t usually out and about at that time of day, but this one had obviously been disturbed from her scrape in the field and was searching for another safe place. The rain was pelting down and had confused the noises in her impeccable hearing, so she had blundered in front of this scarecrow figure and both of them stood dazed and completely still for a minute.
How on Earth had she ever thought that hares were similar to rabbits? She was enormous for a start, more like a small dog than a rodent. Her wavy coat was straggly with the rain, darkening the tawny to deep auburn in places and spiking in wet drips. She had long legs; the front pair were sort of spindly to be fair, but the back legs were quivering muscle, spring-wound for action. The main attraction though was her head – such an exquisitively detailed face! The eyes – of course the eyes – huge, orange orbs of shimmering glass, so alert and aware.
Their glances seemed to drink in the image of each other, tasting each other’s empathy and weighing up their characters.
Her giant ears rotated slightly, as if checking for any other danger, before swivelling back round. Her whiskers twitched, tasting the damp air, along with her perfectly etched nose.
Then in one bound she was gone, dissolved instantly into the undergrowth.
What a mixture of emotion!
Sheer joy, for seeing such a beautiful creature – and so close – and to be able to store that image in perpetuity.
And devastation from the physical loss of her.
At home she began to draw those eyes, she painted the face, she read about hares – and eventually began to dream about them.
She learned about their mysticism, how magical they are; hares as tricksters, sacred hares, hunted hares.
So many representations of them throughout history and over the world: the 3 hares of rebirth, the hare in the moon, the moon gazing hare; sexuality, regeneration, religion, cunning and cycles.
But this is the bit she missed . . .
She was running, running, running through the midnight woods, stumbling and panting. Is this a dream? It could be a dream, but one of those nightmares where your heart beats so loud and heavy that it shakes the mattress.
She could hear her pursuers, their raucous voices, jeering and malevolent. They would gain on her soon, her breath was ragged and her limbs bruised and tired – she was too old for this; and though they were drink addled and clumsy, they were young.
As she was about to collapse against a tree trunk, there was a moment of unexpected light when the full moon revealed herself from beneath the clouds, releasing aspects of inspiration and clarity.
In the next breath she bounded into the undergrowth, clothes left in a heap on the forest floor and with a flash of her tail she was gone.
As everyone knows, a witch can transform herself into her familiar.
And she never changed back . . .
Because why would she?