As daylight broke, just a lighter line behind the trees across the river, the dog got out of bed. I was doing yoga in the living room and even though I knew she had to go out, for some reason, I put her off, sent her to lie on the couch. It was just going to be for a few minutes, while I finished stretching.
One of the cats stood on his hind legs looking out the big picture window.
"Are the little birds here?" I asked him, even though I hadn't seen them flitting through the trees yet; it was still too dark even for those early arrivals.
When I glanced out the window, I saw the fox walking across the front lawn, on this side of the flower gardens. I was about to rap on the window to scare her off when she began to paw at the ground, searching for food. My hand paused then dropped. She raised her head then trotted over to the lilac bush, where I knew there were peanuts and sunflower chips on the ground, having fallen out of one of the bird feeders yesterday (I bring them in at night to discourage damage by our local raccoon).
I sat down at the window as the fox began to eat. Normally, I chase her from the property, because of the dog and the chickens -- and certainly, if I'd let the dog out when she'd first come to me, she would have found this fox in the yard. My worst nightmare is the dog chasing the fox and ending up on the road.
But winter came early this year and it's been cold the past week and there is a storm coming so I let her eat. And she ate her fill. Every so often, she'd raise her head, but she was not as skittish as I'd expect her to be. Winter, and hunger, makes her bold; not careless but determined, and brave.
I don't feed wild animals; it's not wise or sensible for humans to interact with them that way. But the chickens are shut away, and the dog was safe, and the cats don't go outdoors, so this morning, and likely other mornings, I showed compassion and merely watched her. As much a treat for me as the peanuts and seeds were for her as she is beautiful: healthy and strong and wild. There is much to admire in a fox, and I want to keep her safe and alive, and if one breakfast out of a thousand window raps helps, then I've had my moment.
I felt like I was having a Mary Oliver moment, or perhaps just Mary Oliver-esque since I was sitting inside the house: I wasn't squatted down in the snow watching her and hearing the sound of her paws digging at the snow and her nose snuffling for seeds.
When the chickadees finally showed up, they were annoyed; they chittered loudly and the fox raised her face to them then dismissed them and continued eating while the chickadees flitted through the thin branches of the lilac bush.
Later, I wondered if Mary Oliver had a poem about a fox. She has two, and I like this one:
Listen says fox it is music to run
over the hills to lick
dew from the leaves to nose along
the edges of the ponds to smell the fat
ducks in their bright feathers but
far out, safe in their rafts of
sleep. It is like
music to visit the orchard, to find
the vole sucking the sweet of the apple, or the
rabbit with his fast-beating heart. Death itself
is a music. Nobody has ever come close to
writing it down, awake or in a dream. It cannot
be told. It is flesh and bones
changing shape and with good cause, mercy
is a little child beside such an invention. It is
music to wander the black back roads
outside of town no one awake or wondering
if anything miraculous is ever going to
happen, totally dumb to the fact of every
moment's miracle. Don't think I haven't
peeked into windows. I see you in all your seasons
making love, arguing, talking about God
as if he were an idea instead of the grass,
instead of the stars, the rabbit caught
in one good teeth-whacking hit and brought
home to the den. What I am, and I know it, is
responsible, joyful, thankful. I would not
give my life for a thousand of yours.