This is as good a time as any to reflect on the things I've seen, heard and felt here these last few months. I feel that the accumulation of impressions garnered here in these woods has a perpetually calming effect, as though each layer of wondrousness superimposes itself over all the others that came before it, but not completely obliterating them. It's as if some days I could pick them up and riffle them to create a moving picture of all that I've experienced here and to which I hope to continue to add as another year unfolds before me.
I looked up from my book just in time the other day around noon to see a fox climbing up the small rise above the front yard. It seemed undecided, turning this way and that, its gleaming burnt orange fur refracting the midday sunlight. Moving to the window for a closer look, I saw the cause of its dilemma. One of my cats, Emmett, was sitting about 20 feet away, observing the fox, but not appearing to be too concerned. I wondered what each creature was feeling at that moment. Were they checking each other out, and in the process trying to decide if either posed a danger to the other? Once I appeared on the porch, Emmett came up to meet me and the fox ran off into the trees. Was he being cautious or did he simply think I had a treat waiting for him inside? I'll never know, of course, because neither cats or foxes communicate such things to humans.
The red fox, native to North America, is the species most of us are familiar with. It's a beautiful animal with reddish orange fur along its torso and face, creamy white belly and tail-tip and black feet. It has long pointed ears and a pointed snout, and it mates and breeds in the fall and early winter in this part of the country. This accounts for the barking I sometimes hear at night in late summer. It's a fox announcing its presence and warning other predators away from its den and is often quite close by, as that is also the time when foxes hunt for food. The red fox doesn't normally tangle with domesticated pets, particular if they are, like dogs, loud, or are equipped, like cats, with several defenses. Omnivores, foxes will eat whatever is easiest and puts up the least resistance to get at, be it animal or vegetable.
This is also the time of year when the deer population is once again on the move. Foraging provides decent yields as seeds, nuts, and vegetation are still abundant, so they move around a lot among all the choices available to them. Just last week, I saw a doe and a large fawn that had lost its spots cross the middle of my sloped driveway and disappear into the woods across the road. The fawn was half its mother's size, but it was still staying quite close to her, and I wondered if it was the tiny one that had paid a visit to my back porch just a few months ago.
As I look around me now, it's apparent how all the growing things continue to encroach upon this humble dwelling. On the north side, tree branches hang low over the roof, and I will need to trim them before the first snowfall weighs them down even more. On the south side, the space that once opened up just across the driveway is now full and lush, and a canopy hangs over the the other end that slopes down to the dirt road.
It happens in the merest of time lapses, nature's inexorable push toward reclaiming what has always been hers to begin with. We may make use of it for awhile, and even make the mistake of calling it ours. But she knows better and waits, always ready to slip in again when we're not looking.