The fox is looking right at me.
I am barefoot, still in my work skirt, with an oven timer ticking down in the kitchen. The yard is lit by that golden afternoon sunlight that reframes the garden’s summer of overgrown neglect as something wild and painterly. The previous owner had planted ornamentals with exuberance. Though I am just twenty steps from my porch, I am surrounded by head-high grasses, a copse of tall cup plants, willow bush and wild rose that hide me from the house.
I back away slowly through the tasseled grasses. I talk to the fox in low, respectful tones. She continues to stare at me with the patience of foxes who have brazenly stared down humans for thousands of years. She is lustrous, dark brown, her eyes bright. She stands on a little path that runs up the hillside into the woods, a carpet of rusty orange and brown leaves beneath tall trees. Though we are less than fifteen feet apart, I can actually lose sight of her as her fox colors blend in with the leaves. If I had not noticed her by the blackberries, if I had just stepped out of my kitchen door to call the cats in for their dinner, I would not have seen her. But she would have seen me.
While I’m reminding myself that foxes prefer eating earthworms and mice and are not even much of a threat to my two orange cats rolling in the dusty driveway, I am keenly aware that she has been watching me while I rooted obliviously through the blackberry bushes, pulling the fruit into my mouth. I feel a shiver of the prey my species has always been and has only recently forgotten.
I stand perfectly still, watching the fox watching me. I wonder at fox magic and the indecipherable message she brings. I wonder at her sleek, perfect wildness and the sharp intelligence in her eyes.
The fox stretches out on the little path and considers me over her paws. She looks relaxed, and I sit, too, feeling like a guest at an interspecies lawn party. We just keep watching each other. Long minutes pass. The orange cats doze in patches of afternoon sun. The fox watches me.
A hummingbird streaks between us and thrums into the patch of red bee balm just to my right. I turn my head just a little to watch its jaunty thrusts of flight between the flowers, the sun flashing on its tiny iridescent green belly. When my eyes snap back to the fox, she is gone. Simply, completely gone. I squint at the brown leaf duff to try and pick her out, but the space is enormously empty of foxes.
I can’t quite process how a creature could be so solidly in front of me in one heart beat, then so completely gone the next. I miss the fox, and I am realizing in my slow sapien way that she had never been relaxed, had not wanted to be seen, had always been waiting for that split second when my attention was pulled so she could evaporate back into her world.
I hear a thin crashing in the woods as she runs through the underbrush, already so far away. I want to chase after her, but the kitchen timer rings, my cat rubs my leg to remind me it’s time for his dinner, and I stand there lonely for the wild thing that briefly broke through the veil between our worlds.
~ ~ ~
After a few weeks of not writing for no good reason, I am tickled that this post works for all of the intervening topics: Intersecting, Golden Afternoon, The Eyes Have It, Pick a Color (the color of foxes).