The eyes see, the brain wonders.
This happened recently, just before the snow. I was looking out the kitchen window and saw an animal moving, not unusual in our wooded area:
A neighborhood black cat roams freely. Squirrels store acorns on our lawn. The occasional dog makes a break for it. Raccoons stare brazenly near the garbage cans.
This was something else – red, handsome, erect.
The brain said: “Cat.” Then the brain said, “Dog.” Then the brain said, “Neither.”
My mouth said, “Fox!” My wife picked up her head and saw it.
This was all in a few seconds.
I grabbed for my smartphone to take a photo, too late.
The animal was vigilant, ears up, perfect posture. He looked around, like a UPS driver unsure which house is No. 9. Then he/she padded, straight-legged gait, unlike dog or cat or squirrel or raccoon, toward the neighbor’s lawn, and onto the golf course.
I had never seen a fox outside a zoo. Stumbled upon deer while hiking in the Appalachians.
Laura has coyotes around her country house upstate. (Keep an eye on the pup.)
We see signs depicting moose along I-95 in Maine. (I maintain it is a tourism ploy.)
One crisp day years ago, near Sedona, a pack of javelinas, snorting, kicking up sand, rushed past me in the bushes, so close I could see smell them, see their bristles. But never a fox.
I mentioned “our” fox to our children, and Corinna reminded me she uses a fox for her logo, as a well-connected consultant for do-good projects in Pennsylvania.
“My choice of a logo was easy — it had to be a fox!” she wrote. “I have always loved foxes; my house is full of fox paintings, photos, and knickknacks.
“But I also think they’re the perfect symbol for a consultant. While foxes occupy a spot near the top of the food chain, and are, in fact, predators, most people are excited – not scared – to see them in the wild. This struck me as not a bad role model for a consultant!
“So my dear friend Diana Robinson created a beautiful fox logo for me, a handsome fellow leaping up towards success!”
Corinna alluded to the classic book by Isaiah Berlin, “The Hedgehog and the Fox,” in which he describes an over-eager fox getting a face full of hedgehog quills. Nevertheless, she prefers foxes.
Coincidence: my Australian cousin Jen Guttenplan is married to Sam Guttenplan, an American professor in London and longtime associate of Sir Isaiah. (Jen once sent me a brilliant description of Sir Isaiah’s funeral.)
Double coincidence: Sam and Jen have foxes on their lawn in Islington, North London.
“They like to sleep in the sun on the patch of grass visible from our kitchen window. Bold as brass,” Sam reported, sending me a photo of a greying fox, sunning on their lawn.
Corinna is right. We are thrilled at knowing that a beautiful red fox resides near our house.
My wife says one fox means more foxes.
I am vigilant for another glimpse of red coat, bright fur, alert eyes and ears.
The fox undoubtedly is on guard for us.
Measuring Covid Deaths, by David Leonhardt. July 17, 2023. NYT online.
The United States has reached a milestone in the long struggle against Covid: The total number of Americans dying each day — from any cause — is no longer historically abnormal….
After three horrific years, in which Covid has killed more than one million Americans and transformed parts of daily life, the virus has turned into an ordinary illness.
The progress stems mostly from three factors:
First, about three-quarters of U.S. adults have received at least one vaccine shot.
Second, more than three-quarters of Americans have been infected with Covid, providing natural immunity from future symptoms. (About 97 percent of adults fall into at least one of those first two categories.)
Third, post-infection treatments like Paxlovid, which can reduce the severity of symptoms, became widely available last year.
“Nearly every death is preventable,” Dr. Ashish Jha, who was until recently President Biden’s top Covid adviser, told me. “We are at a point where almost everybody who’s up to date on their vaccines and gets treated if they have Covid, they rarely end up in the hospital, they almost never die.”
That is also true for most high-risk people, Jha pointed out, including older adults — like his parents, who are in their 80s — and people whose immune systems are compromised. “Even for most — not all but most —immuno-compromised people, vaccines are actually still quite effective at preventing against serious illness,” he said. “There has been a lot of bad information out there that somehow if you’re immuno-compromised that vaccines don’t work.”
That excess deaths have fallen close to zero helps make this point: If Covid were still a dire threat to large numbers of people, that would show up in the data.
One point of confusion, I think, has been the way that many Americans — including we in the media — have talked about the immuno-compromised. They are a more diverse group than casual discussion often imagines.
Most immuno-compromised people are at little additional risk from Covid — even people with serious conditions, such as multiple sclerosis or a history of many cancers. A much smaller group, such as people who have received kidney transplants or are undergoing active chemotherapy, face higher risks.
Covid’s toll, to be clear, has not fallen to zero. The C.D.C.’s main Covid webpage estimates that about 80 people per day have been dying from the virus in recent weeks, which is equal to about 1 percent of overall daily deaths.
The official number is probably an exaggeration because it includes some people who had virus when they died even though it was not the underlying cause of death. Other C.D.C. data suggests that almost one-third of official recent Covid deaths have fallen into this category. A study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases came to similar conclusions.
Dr. Shira Doron, the chief infection control officer at Tufts Medicine in Massachusetts, told me that “age is clearly the most substantial risk factor.” Covid’s victims are both older and disproportionately unvaccinated. Given the politics of vaccination, the recent victims are also disproportionately
Republican and white.
Each of these deaths is a tragedy. The deaths that were preventable — because somebody had not received available vaccines and treatments — seem particularly tragic. (Here’s a Times guide to help you think about when to get your next booster shot.)
From the great Maureen Dowd:
As I write this, I’m in a deserted newsroom in The Times’s D.C. office. After working at home for two years during Covid, I was elated to get back, so I could wander around and pick up the latest scoop.
But in the last year, there has been only a smattering of people whenever I’m here, with row upon row of empty desks. Sometimes a larger group gets lured in for a meeting with a platter of bagels."
--- Dowd writes about the lost world of journalists clustered in newsrooms at all hours, smoking, drinking, gossipping, making phone calls, typing, editing.
"Putting out the paper," we called it.
Much more than nostalgia.