Last week, at breakfast, we saw a fox out on the frozen lake. It had trotted away to the south before Kim could scramble for her camera. Nevertheless, we hugged each other in celebration.
The next morning we were more prepared, but when it was light enough to see the shore, all we discovered were tracks. But then, the following day, we saw two of them, running from what is presumably their den just to the north of us. One of them, possibly seeing us move, paused to be photographed.
The next morning, just tracks, but that’s fine – they are regulars. I think I will be able to follow their tracks back to their den, though I don’t want to scare them away.
Why is it so exciting to see foxes? They are our foxes, of course, and they are beautiful, but it’s more than that. These were moving quickly and gracefully – does “fox trot” come to mind? And foxes are characters, loved for their cleverness and trickery – as in “sly as a fox.” But it’s more than that.
The foxes are wild. I know it does not make a lot of sense to see “nature” as distinct from the everyday world we live in, as if nature only takes place in the woods or parks. We are all part of nature. But still, our foxes are part of the wilder, hidden part of nature, and they have agreed to include us in their lives, even at a distance.
Kim and I spotted a fox about thirty years ago when we were living in Southeast Michigan. I wrote about it:
Bright fox with rag of rabbit
dangling from jaws trots
clear of woods into space
between feeder and house. Head
up, healthy, hello brush! he
flashes past our big windows.
We rush to bedroom to see
him pass, to see him pause
at head of path, but no,
it's under fence and across
meadow, out of sight behind
trees and winter grass.
fox, give us your clear light,
jaws and feet rabbit swift, fast
food held heading home, alive
and sure this cold morning.
I apologize for “fast/food,” but I couldn’t resist. And you may have noticed that I removed every “the” from the poem to try to make it lean and fresh, like the fox, and I did what I could to make it musical. And what I wanted, and still want, is the fox’s “clear light,” where he is “alive / and sure,” unlike the brain-fogged muddle that makes up too much of our merely human lives.
Great that this winter, sequestered here as we are by Covid, that the fox comes to refresh us with a visit, just outside our window.