The fox is an elusive creature.
Ever since I read about local fox sightings in Dr. Allen Benton's OBSERVER nature column years ago, I had hoped to see one myself. During this Memorial Day weekend, my wish was finally fulfilled.
In the field near the woods in the backyard, we spotted what, at first glance, appeared to be a small dog peacefully lying in the grass, possibly enjoying a snack. The animal was partially shielded by the tall brush, but it had a bright reddish coloring with pointed ears and seemed to be larger than my Cairn Terrier, Lola; she was far too distracted to even notice it was there. It was not until the being stood up and began to trot toward the tree line that it became apparent that it was wild. Could it be?
The fox is the subject of folklore throughout many cultures.
Oddly enough, I had a dream the night prior about a fox, which led to a groggy early morning conversation wherein I mused that perhaps the fox was my "spirit animal." Little did I know my dream would realized only hours later.
"It's a fox!" my sister half-whispered, so as not to disturb our visitor, and carefully climbed off her lawn chair. She rushed inside to grab the binoculars.
The fox had paused, perhaps trying to remain frozen in an attempt to be undetected. It began to trot again; its gait was my favorite attribute. The fox seemed to glide through the grass, taking high steps, almost like a show dog parading around the ring. It stopped again near the trees, watching us watching it. The fox began to lick its paws and then playfully rolled onto its back, exposing the white fur on his belly.
By this time, all four family members were quietly watching the fox from a distance, taking turns with the binoculars.
The fox sat up and slyly gazed at us for a moment longer, then it strode into the woods. I could see it sitting at the bottom of a tree, staring up into the branches, causing quite a ruckus amongst the birds. They squawked loudly as the fox watched them. After awhile, the fox disappeared behind the tree.
I was elated by my sighting. The subject of much lore in many cultures, the fox is considered a symbol of wisdom, determination, cunning and adaptability. Spotting a fox can mean several different things, according to information gleaned from a myriad of websites and a trip to the Barker Library.
In Celtic culture, the fox is considered a guide; a red fox is a sign urging the beholder to pursue their passions and follow their instincts. The Chinese associate the fox with the afterlife, and a sighting could be signal from the spirit world. Called "kitsune" in Japanese, foxes are associated with longevity and the supernatural. Legend said kitsune were shapeshifters and could assume human form.
There is also a great deal of fox mythology among the Native Americans, varying from tribe to tribe; the fox was either a wise messenger or a trickster. The Lakota believed it was possible to aquire some of an animal's powers through a vision or dream. It was common knowledge among the Koyukon that animals have spirits and were once human. (Colin F. Taylor's "Native American Myths and Legends" proved fascinating).
Several years ago, I wondered if foxes could be domesticated - perhaps I could keep one as a pet. I did some research and discovered that my notion could not come to fruition. Attempts to tame the fox have not been entirely successful. A project begun by Russian geneticist Dmitry Belyaev, conducted on a fox farm in Siberia, still continues after his death in 1985.
However, after seeing one in the flesh, light-heartedly lying in the sun and enjoying a rollicking roll in the grass, I prefer that the fox remain free. Some things are best to be left wild.
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