Revisitation • Vixen / Inari • open edition giclée print
A flash of brilliant color, barely perceptible through the softly rustling grass.
Copper fur stirs slightly in the breeze as the padding footfall pauses, considers. The air is thick with mystery, with cunning, with sharp schemes. A dark eye glints, quick and beguiling.
There is sly knowledge here.
I’ve only seen a fox in the wild one time.
It was back on the farm where I grew up. There was no shortage of animals - our land backed up onto a large state park running wild (literally) with all of the traditional critters and creatures indigenous to the Northeastern Unites States.
And some that were not.
The story goes that, back before the area was tamed and populated, there was guy, a hermit, a wild, lone recluse living deep in the woods. He collected animals from throughout the US, and lived with them in his own private, hidden zoo. When he died, the animals waited patiently for their feed, which never came. So they broke free to feed themselves. Which would explain the anomalous and not-entirely-pleasant presence of coyote.
Back to the fox.
It was the briefest of glimpses; a moment and it was gone. But in that moment, as it was running through the tall grass, it stopped and looked directly at me, making eye contact. And I totally understood all the talk about cleverness.
What surprised me even more was the calmness that radiated off of the beast. Deer give off an air of skittish panic. Bear of sluggish power. The bobcat that loped through had an ugly nastiness about it (it might have been just one bad bobcat, I don’t want to stereotype). The fox was so relaxed, so self-possessed that it might have been an aristocrat on its morning constitutional, surveying its lands.
Foxes have long been one of my favorite animals to use as metaphor or symbol. Long before that one encounter, I’d been enthralled by Aesop’s stories, by myths and legends and fairy tales. Whether hero or villain, savior or thief, that sly intelligence was always at the core of the fox’s personality.
I wonder if my admiration might stem from identifying with the fox, or perhaps a touch of jealousy. Despite its small size (until high school, I was always one of the smallest in my grade) the fox always seemed to be in control. Even the foxes who came to unfortunate ends did so through their own actions and arrogance. Cleverness and self-assured grace seem like very fine alternatives to brawn.
Vixen / Inari ambles back into the shop today. Keep an eye on the henhouse.