The family of hares sit on the hillock and observed it all, monarchs of a sea of emerald. Away to the right across the large expanse of green, of trees and fields and the occasion red-roofed barn, sat Athenry. To the left, in the distance, a swathe of east Galway leading away in the mist to where lies Tuam.
They sit with a quizzical look on their faces at this new addition to their landscape, this grey snake that makes a hissing sound as little things move along it for mile after mile. For two years, they’ve listened as explosions blasted out rock, after hammers rat-a-tatted at the ground, piling soil high, moving in stone.
They’ve watched fascinated as people in orange and yellow with yellow hats drove diggers backwards and forwards and shouted out strange lines like ‘lock her swing her lock her, dump the shaggin thing there jesus padraig didn’t I say to dump it there” and then every mid-morning how they trundled off to some portocabins to “ate breakfast rolls and lash back lashins of tay”.
They watched them make that rock smooth and then a flat clean black and then they’ve watched as the funny men in the orange hats drew lines down the middle of this blackness. They’ve watched for days as their cars have driven up and down this new stretch as if they are looking for something, making sure that it is perfect, that all the signs are in place, or maybe they are just sad to be leaving a workplace, this urban snake in the midst of so much nature.
And yesterday the hares watched as a funny group of people came along with chains and cars and umbrellas and cut a ribbon and unveiled a plaque and said things like “hup ya boyah” and fought to get into the picture as if it was one of them who built the bloody thing, while the men in the orange hats stood by the side and let them take all the credit.
And Mother Hare looked at her offspring and answered their questions.
“What are they, you ask, Well I’ll tell you, they are called cars. They are boxes of tin with wheels on them and inside them there are probably one or two human persons. Human persons aren’t like us, my dears, they don’t use their legs to get around all day. No, they get into these car things and they drive them all together, in the one direction and then when they all arrive at the same time together, they all slow down and they get angry and annoyed and frustrated.”
“But why do they do that, Mammy, every day. And why is that big thing there, Mammy, Right across our valley?
“That’s called a road, a motorway. It is new. You see, we cannot run across the valley anymore like we used to because the road runs right through it. This is the first time that you have seen cars and this is the first time that many of the animals here have seen cars.
“They go very fast Mammy, they go very fast.”
“That they do, my dears. You see, people who drive those car things, they don’t really learn much. They take the same journey every day and then act surprised when it ends the same. They sit there in their tin boxes without any real air coming in, and they do dangerous things like look at their phones while they are driving and going too fast if they are late. But remember, my dears, haste is not always good. It is better to arrive late than to be dead on time, that’s my motto,” she said, as they snuggled into one another.
And as the sun set over this hillock in East Galway, the hares and the foxes and the badgers all crept out of their homes last evening and looked down at their new neighbour, stretching across as far as the eye can see, and they spent the night in wonder at the sights and sounds and lights that it brought... And when exhaustion took them, they fell asleep, and slept the sleep of a thousand sleeps.