Saturday, February 02, 2008

This Writing Thing (after the Fox)

Just because we can have fun with this doesn't mean it's not serious business. Sometimes the fun and the business are the same. Sometimes you feel manic, out of sorts, out of control, standing aside while someone or something else is in the driver's seat, but knowing it's all going to work out perfectly, so just hang on for a wild ride. And you trust it, even as it rocks you world.

That's the lesson of the Trickster, the Heyoka, the reversal clown, of Coyote, of Raven, of Anansi, Reynard, the Kitsune: it's all serious fun, and seriously funny, yet also, funnily enough, it's serious.

This afternoon I stood at the window, talking on the phone with a close friend whom I love, looking out at the recent showfall that had covered the land, making land and sky that same white color again. I stood at the window, looking out, chatting away, and a red fox walked across the frozer river, up the opposite bank, and into the graphic-pen brush of the woods on the floodplain over there. I gasped. It was a beautiful sight.

Suddenly nothing else mattered. The miscommunications and declarative bullshit that had been the nature of human relations in my orbit all this part week; the misunderstandings and umbrage taken; the hard work to make things happen in the next phase of my life, after the death of both of my parents in less than a year's time, and everything else that had been making me crazy for months—none of that meant anything. A red fox trotted across a white snowfield and into some black trees. That's all. That's enough.

I've written before about encounters with nature, and about foxes. I have encountered them several times in my life, as well as coyotes, wolves, and other wild canids. There is something special about encountering a fox: it's always quick, always fleeting, sometimes very playful, and often a shock to the expectations. Seeing a fox is always a pleasure.

One time, driving in eastern Wisconsin in the early evening, I passed a field of hay that was standing tall and tan, probably due to be mown soon. There was a gap in the hay, a driveway into the field for a tractor, a truck, a combine; just a little gap, about the width of a car. As I flahsed past at speed, I saw there in gap, dead center, a fox sat on its haunches, tail wrapped around its paws, mouth gapped in a fox smile, tongue lolling, nose up. It looked very pleased about something. As I drove on, not daring to stop or even slow down, I saw the fox get up, self-possessed as you please, and trot across the two-lane highway to disappear into another field across the way. It was as if it had been sitting there, waiting for the traffic to clear, calm as you please, like someone waiting at a crossroads for the traffic lights to change so they could at the intersection. And gone into the evening's blue light.

In the time it's taken me to write about the fox, the light outside has gone from white to the deep blue of dusk. Will I see the fox again? I don't know. But I'll always look for it, now.

white sky, white land,
black trees, brushwork on paper—
the strolling red fox

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Blogger Jim Murdoch said...

The first time I ran into a fox, in fact the first time I saw a fox in the wild, I was thirteen and it was in a railway yard I used to hang around in after school. I turned the corner by some brake van or carriage and there it was maybe ten feet away from me. I froze. It froze. And for several seconds we stood there motionless, eye-to-eye. Eventually it decided I was no great threat, turned and, at a leisurely pace I have to say, headed off on its travels. You never forget an encounter like that. Since then it's become a commonplace thing to see foxes even in the inner city – I saw a family of three once in Jordanhill in Glasgow – but it's always at a distance and they're usually scrawny-looking creatures.

4:51 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

Great story.

In a parallel story, in the US several decades there was an idiotic attempt to eradicate the coyote in the Southwest states, as a species. The sheepherders and cattle ranchers viewed them as dangerous nuisances. However, the coyote being clever like a fox, the end result of the readication attempt was that coyotes have now spread to every state in the Union. There are groups of coyotes living wild in Chicago, in Boston, and in and around New York City. I've heard them myself, in several states, yipping at night.

It's the greatest species survival story of the past century or so.

So it's encouraging to me to hear similar stories about fox. Thanks!

10:01 AM  

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