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Retired publishing executive ecstatic with the idea of spending most of his time on the coast of Maine

Friday, January 11, 2013

Rock with ears

I'm doing well this morning, the ideas and words are coming more or less smoothly, and then I get up to stretch, pace a bit, survey the edges of my kingdom (no, I'm not trying to distract myself, you've read the research about chair-bound mortality, right? besides, the essay is going well, as I said). I look at the sea, the edge of the bank, the spruces on the edge of the bank, the tumble-down rock wall, all the familiar sights always brimming with expectations, when my eyes snap back to one of the rocks in the wall - hey, that rock has ears! My morning is gloriously ruined.

Sir (or Dame) Reynard is lying curled up on the snow, in the sun, nose to tail. He's only 30 feet away - I scramble for the binoculars to make him larger than life. I pull up a chair to the French doors and settle in.

Soon enough his ears twitch a bit and he looks up.  A couple of crows are flying by. They don't see him, so their cawing is normal, not mobbing. His ears go back down for a spell. Something else wakes him up. Like a dog (and I mean exactly like a dog, we watch our mini poodle do it a thousand times) he gets up, stretches front legs and back, turns around a few times, sniffs his behind, yawns, slicks his jaw and long black whiskers with his tongue, and finds a new position. Now he rests his chin on a paw, now he's facing me, now he lifts his head and looks my way as if seeing something in the window. Magnificent tawny coat, black feet and ankles, ears black on the outside, golden eyes with those black vertical pupils that clash so eerily with his sloe-eyed slanted face - I feel drab and ordinary, over-dressed  in comparison.

He wakes, on alert, looking up. Two gray squirrels are running and jumping on the branches above. Calmly, he just looks, not getting up. Such a meal is clearly beyond reach.

However, something new seizes his attention and he rises up and freezes like a pointer. Then he stalks towards the back of the house, and I run to the kitchen window and see him sniffing and scratching at the base of the huge spruce back there. He looks up at its height, at the ghosts of little red squirrels past, as if memorializing the place of once and future meals. He heads for the woods and I think I've lost him.

Nope, he just sniffs along the driveway a  bit, goes out of sight around the garage, and beautifully comes back to his sunning spot for another snooze.

We're now well into hour two. If anything he's getting more comfortable. The low sun is moving around and away and shadows encroach even in late morning and still he rests. Warmth must radiate from the rocks nearby; the snow is partly melted around them. I can't believe he's so calm, so unruffled. This could never happen at other times of the year - there'd be motors, or the clink of ice cubes in a glass of gin, or kids yelling, or the barking of domesticated dogs, or the luscious scent of mice in abundance. The sun is extra special in the winter. Two hours with a fox would be a wasteful indulgence in the precious warm days of the northern summer.

Hour three starts. Now it's too late for my morning walk. How awful. He sleeps on. I eat lunch at the corner of the table, awkwardly, computer and binoculars in the way. He doesn't appear to need food for the moment, so sleek he is and well fed. I do the dishes, pack up for the trip back to the city, sneaking frequent peaks. Still there.

The sound of the back door, the garage door, will drive us away. I hate to go, but what a send-off. What a life.

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