Saturday, May 25, 2013

More foxes

I was going out to a lunch appointment yesterday when the car was stopped almost immediately by an irresistible force. Just a hundred yards along a crowd of foxes played on the road, and it was a crowd: I counted at least five kits in the open and an adult in the woods. The babies looked half-grown already, and would be by the fall. I suppose they felt emboldened that the people in the house opposite have not yet arrived for the summer, and the little cottage next to that, so long derelict and suspected of housing evil raccoons, has been torn down and not yet mansion-ized, leaving the lot wide open. Their den had clearly survived the earth movers and backhoes and the building of the seawall for the new owners, or maybe ma and pa dug a new den in the bank on the shore.

The kits seemed to regard the car with curiosity. After watching a while, I had to get going (silly human schedules!). They didn't panic but quite calmly drifted into the woods, still messing around with each other, twigs, imaginary mice. As I turned up the hill, they came out into the field next to the road, not exactly following me but still curious, and then I stopped again as in the tall grass they gamboled and bobbed, appearing and vanishing, practicing (I imagine) the vertical leaps and pounces that in adulthood would end in dinner.

It wasn't innocence I was feeling. Joy at such exuberance, certainly, but I know that the lives of foxes in the wild are very short, and resourceful as they are, they are constantly on the edge of danger and hunger. It was more about that parent in the background, watchful, proud, worried and ultimately helpless at whatever fates faced the family. In just a few months the kits would be gone to seek their own territories, their own dangers and diseases. But for now they gamboled, and this father rejoiced in their spirit and drove away, cheered up on a difficult day.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Mangy and wet

Even though it's rainy and foggy and chilly (and will be for the next 400 years, it seems), it's still good to be back in Maine, a feeling only amplified when a fox trotted across our yard this morning. Granted, I did see a fox in Ohio last week, but it was at an intersection of two country roads, with houses on each corner, and the fox was moseying from garbage can to garbage can as if it were used to getting fed on trash pick-up day. Our fox also looked a bit mangy, or maybe it was just wet, as we will be later when we tackle the spring gardens, and I did worry for a moment if its den was destroyed when the new seawall of riprap was constructed down the shore. But it quite purposefully went down the bank as if going home after a successful night with voles. I hope it hasn't been reduced to scrounging for left-over people food. It's good to share a little of wild and wet and ripe, in amongst the lilies, bleeding hearts, and brambles on our bit of ocean-side home.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Light until nine

The evening goes on and on. It's perfectly still. Not a leaf stirs, the bird sounds (none of them familiar) are loud, there are not even any insects to wave at. The long grass settles down and gleams in the low light. Talley the Singapura cat settles down in my lap, also gleaming. Her daughter Bertie stalks chimeras somewhere nearby. It's 9:00 here on the western side of the eastern time zone. And there's still a month to go before the equinox.

And Ohio isn't even the far western edge. I lived part of my boyhood in western Michigan and vividly recall playing kick-the can and hide-and-seek until nearly 11:00. It was a summer-long gift, those 5-hour evenings after supper, appreciated as if games were eternal, time were endless. Now life is quieter, a little more sedentary but more appreciated. Even this unfamiliar place makes me content, and I look at my car at this end of the long, thousand-foot driveway, pointed out as if ready to leave in a couple of days, and yes, I miss the ocean, and my wife, but tonight is a gift too, out of time, or rather, back in time.

Ten minutes later, it's nearly completely dark.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

The birds of north-east Ohio

I'm about half-way through my month-long, Maine-less sojourn, most of which I'm spending in rural north-east Ohio at my brother's house, staying with my mother while brother and family vacation in Ireland. Today feels a bit coastal Maine-ish - foggy and cool after yesterday's thunderstorm - not surprising since we're only a mile or two from Lake Erie.

My daily routine includes, of course, a walk. Although I don't know Ohio well, this area seems distinct form the rest of the state: flat, mostly wooded, full of little ponds and tiny streams and open fields of hay, a floodplain perhaps for the big lake to the north. The walking is easy, quiet, unspectacular, and the animals I see are mostly domesticated - seven Herefords in a feed lot, a dog frantically barking behind a fence, chickens crowing and clucking, my mother's two cats willfully going in and out of the house. The wild animals I see are mainly birds, the common ones seen most everywhere in the Midwest and New England. Or maybe I could count barking dogs behind fences, on chains, behind doors, including one in a cage that seemed anxious to take a bit of my thigh for his afternoon tea.

Are these birds really wild anymore? I suppose the vultures, robins, red-winged blackbirds, goldfinches, blue jays, sparrows, wrens, and the two geese who seem to have adopted my brother's property could survive without the lawns and fields and seeds and shrubs and roadkill supplied by humans, but it would be much more difficult. Some of the birds clearly don't need us. The pileated woodpecker sounding like a machine-gun, the kill-deer leading me along the road with their piping, the two kingfishers (?) calling a little square dance around a tree before having sex, the blue heron I saw in a swamp in the state park nearby - all these give me the sense of freedom that more settled life might lack, a feeling of hope and of the very long cycle of life that temporary or even permanent setbacks find a place in.

There are deer here also, those lovers of edges, but I haven't yet seen any.

Not that lovers of edges aren't inspiring in their own right. What could be more amazing than a hummingbird in your lilies? I'm just not sure humans are thriving here, even though we have created this new world of borders. Many species do thrive, finding food in spite of danger, finding food because of danger. I live in such places, on the edges of ocean, city, emotion, pain, ecstasy, where I can find food for the body but not necessarily for the soul.