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

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.

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