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.
"Among the things that have long fascinated people about Jesus and explain his enduring appeal is his method of dialogue and teaching. "He asked a lot of questions and told a lot of stories in the form of parables. In fact, parables form about a third of Jesus’ recorded teachings. The Gospels were written decades after he died, so his questions and parables clearly left a deep impression on those who bore testimony to him....
"Some of Jesus’ questions were rhetorical; others were meant to challenge or even provoke. In some cases, Jesus used questions to parry attacks by religious authorities who set traps for him. In others, he used questions to enter more fully into the lives of others and to help people look at the state of their hearts. He asked people about their fears and their faith. Jesus used questions to free a woman caught in adultery from condemnation and to inquire whether people considered him to be the Messiah. He probed deeply into questions not many had asked before him, like “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”
---(Peter Wehner, long-time White House consultant and writer, in the NYT last week about Jesus Christ’s method of teaching by asking questions.)
"Would that I could mention all the illuminating details in this biography, for example, why Wells praised Black Americans so highly, saying, 'I took a mighty liking to these gentle, human, dark-skinned people,' and 'Whatever America has to show in heroic living today, I doubt if she can show anything finer than the quality of the resolve, the steadfast efforts hundreds of black and colored men are making today to live blamelessly, honorably and patiently, getting by themselves what scraps of refinement, beauty and learning they may, keeping their hold on a civilization they are grudged and denied.''
-- "How H.G. Wells Predicted the 20th Century," Charles Johnson, NYT Book Review, Nov. 19, 2021. ***".
...the monsters arrive."
"They come in a deafening, surging swarm, blasting from lawn to lawn and filling the air with the stench of gasoline and death. I would call them mechanical locusts, descending upon every patch of gold in the neighborhood the way the grasshoppers of old would arrive, in numbers so great they darkened the sky, to lay bare a cornfield in minutes. But that comparison is unfair to locusts.
"Grasshoppers belong here. Gasoline-powered leaf blowers are invaders, the most maddening of all the maddening, environment-destroying tools of the American lawn-care industry."
---The great Margaret Renkl, from Nashville, one of my favorite NYT bylines, Oct. 26, 2021.
(She describes our Long Island enclave to every decibel, every stink.)