The Fox January 29, 2014

fox close up

“The size of the place that one becomes

a member of is limited only by

the size of one’s heart.”

Gary Snyder

“Though both the red fox and the gray fox live in North Carolina today, the gray fox is the state’s only native fox species. The gray fox is slightly smaller than the red fox and is much darker in color. The overall coloration is best described as a salt and pepper gray with a dark streak extending down the back and along the top of the tail.” NC Wildlife Resources Commission

THE FOX  Urocyon cinereoargenteus

A grey fox is buried in my back yard.  I live in a city neighborhood with lots of oak trees and a stream at the bottom of the hill.  Ellerbee Creek flows along a bike path which ends at the golf course. A while back I used to see a great blue heron wading there. A bit of forest remains between the last row of houses and the stream. Across this slice of water you can see the backs of all the businesses that line Guess Road, a busy 4 lane road that quickly crosses under I-40 and is the home of many gas stations, convenience stores, motels, hotels, pawn shops and other small business. I heard for a while neighbors were spotting a gray fox down there, but I never saw him.

Last November right after our local elections, my neighbor and newly chosen councilman, Don Moffit (yeah Don!) called me on the phone one afternoon.  “Bryant,” he said, “I was out by the Lemur Center when I saw an animal by the side of the road. I stopped because I thought if might have been an injured lemur, but it was a fox.  Would you like to see him?”  Well of course I would.  Don knows of my interest in wild life and how when I can find the time, I work in my backyard studio making the animals I see around me our of recycled materials. He told me he and his daughter and her friend would be right over. The previous Thanksgiving all of us who were sharing the holiday together took a walk after the main part of dinner and ended up looking at my attempt at making raccoons in my studio.  This was after we had all admired the grey fox that stood on the credenza at Susan and Bob’s. They had come across it by the side of the road while biking out near Hillsborough a year ago and Susan insisted that they should take it to a taxidermist.  Truly, it was a thing of beauty as its beady glass eyes stared down at us as we ate our turkey.  So, for many reasons Don and I had foxes in our history together. Somewhere in the conversation I asked, “Would you like to bury him in my back yard?”  Soon he arrived with a shovel and a fox wrapped in a blue tarp. The two girls were close in attendance. Quickly he dug a hole for the fox. After he nestled the dead animal into the ground and re-covered it with tamped down earth we placed a large garden stone over the grave.

My question is this.  Do we have room in our hearts for wild things?  I am glad I live in a world where foxes forage, where rabbits occasionally show up in my garden and where all the time birds fly above me. I know I am fortunate to have friends who care about these things as well.

Foxes are predators. They catch small rodents and eat them.  Immediately. And then they sleep and mate and do it again.  They do not go to the dentist and are never late. They do not play soccer or drive a car or do anything remotely human and we do not want them to. We want them to be foxes.  The other.  We cannot know them.  We can only be aware of their unfathomable existence in our lives.   Acknowledging the other makes our world bigger, deeper and infinitely more complex.

It takes us out of ourselves. And when we return we are better for it.

snow and animal prints across the fox’s stone





NC wild life says: Fox sightings are increasingly common across North Carolina, either because of the abundance of food available to foxes, or because they may have been disturbed from their resting place.






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