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.
"The day after my 80th birthday, which overflowed with good wishes, surprises and Covid-safe celebrations, I awoke feeling fulfilled and thinking that whatever happens going forward, I’m OK with it. My life has been rewarding, my bucket list is empty, my family is thriving, and if everything ends tomorrow, so be it.
"Not that I expect to do anything to hasten my demise. I will continue to exercise regularly, eat healthfully and strive to minimize stress. But I’m also now taking stock of the many common hallmarks of aging and deciding what I need to reconsider."
--Jane E. Brody, my pal in the NYT newsroom, oh, a few years back, in the Personal Health column, Sept. 13, 2021.
"People have said to me, ‘You’re fully vaccinated. Why are you being so careful?’” said Dr. Robert M. Wachter, professor and chair of the department of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco. “I’m still in the camp of I don’t want to get Covid. I don’t want to get a breakthrough infection.”
---Tara Parker-Pope, The New York Times, Aug. 16, 2021.