When I drive home at night from work to my home in sort-of-rural western New Jersey, I am reminded constantly that the area — with its abundant open space, farm fields, deep woods, many streams and ponds, and its proximity to the Delaware River – absolutely teems with wildlife. I’ve seen black bears, weasels, coyotes, barn owls, pheasants, wild turkeys, ospreys, muskrats, beavers and the more typical suburban/exurban menagerie including deer (which are everywhere and which I’ve hit with my car three times in fifteen years), raccoons, skunks, rabbits, field mice, and turkey buzzards and hawks.
Sometimes it seems like I’m actually living on a movie set where they’re doing a remake of “Bambi.”
In recent years I’ve noticed a proliferation of foxes – every night it seems I see at least one fox scampering into the woods or running across the road, its gorgeous reddish brown coat shining in my headlights.
I assume the number of foxes fluctuates — the same thing happens with raccoons and skunks – as their number climbs to a peak level of sustainability and then plummets as something like rabies decimates the population. The foxes die off and then, for example, rabbits make a comeback. It’s like that song in “The Lion King.” It’s the circle of life.
Last night, that circle seemed more like a bright ring of light – it was one of those little moments with great significance, an encounter that seems so beautiful and meaningful in its simplicity and its providence.
It was nearly midnight. An adult fox trotted across the country road, illuminated by my harsh headlights and by the soft light of the waxing moon, and trailing behind the fox were three young foxes, each one about half the size of the adult.
As I watched them trot into the roadside brush, I wondered if the adult was the father fox, perhaps teaching his sons how to hunt, or whether it was the mother fox, heading back home to the den with her three little kits.
And then I wondered whether these foxes might be preying or might be prey, and then I silently began to pray that at least for this night they were neither, that they were simply a dream of foxes, a vision of foxes, a beauty of foxes, a heaven of foxes, an apparition on a night when I needed just such a miracle, such an omen, such a gift.