The Fox at Dawn

June 26th 2022: Two Days After The News
June 27, 2022, 9:43 am
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Seeking the peace of wild things, I crossed the empty Sunday morning street to make my way to the ravine woods hidden behind the veterans hospital just after dawn. Three young bucks have pulled up short on their crepuscular gallop to assess the threat I may be, sitting here writing in my journal on the stone bench by the trail. Their verdict is not yet in. Now one has ambled quietly away while the others continue to stare. Decision made, they turn their velvety antlers in unison and stroll off after their brother. It comforts me. Comfort too, knowing that if I were to walk back up the trail and go only a little way down the ivied deer path, I would see the barred owl sitting placidly on a low limb, unconcerned by the quiet, gawking me who stood there not long ago silently composing a silly poem in rhyming couplet that went something like this:

God bless the owl
standing guard in the wood
making sure I behave
just as I should.

God bless the trees
whose sheltering arms
keep us all safe
from the world’s many harms.

God bless the little birds
who sing in the dawn
letting us know
the night fears are gone.

A poem I might have written carefully on blue lined paper and laid shyly on my teacher’s desk when she wasn’t looking.

Women and girls will die. Like slavery, a woman’s right to bodily autonomy is put into the hands of states. While the right to carry a concealed weapon is too important to be left to the whims of state legislatures and is now federally protected. As always, it’s the poor who will suffer most. It ought to be comforting to see the collective outrage as I scroll relentlessly through social media and news sites, but I am only further sickened. Women and girls will die. Women and girls will sacrifice their dreams, their ambitions, their gifts, perhaps their lives to have children they never wanted, weren’t ready for or weren’t medically able to bear safely. And society will not help them. Forced to bear children, but no universal healthcare, no paid family leave, no affordable childcare or income help, and no guarantee of paternal support. They are on their own and will be made to feel guilty and worthless as they fill out those humiliating and exacting financial aid forms, endless endless reapplications, that demand much and deliver little. They will work too many jobs for too little money and not be able to make ends meet, not be able to give their children the lives they want them to have. Even more women and children will join the ranks of those who live off the crumbs from the Righteous Table.  I hate our country today because our country hates us.

It doesn’t help, these thoughts. They are a slow dark death. And so I walk, hoping to come through to a clearing where I can see some light.

Voices. Someone dares to enter my woods- are all earth’s creatures territorial? I feel they are spoiling it, these people talking in the wood, I am peeved and put out. But their voices are low and as they turn the bend of the trail I see them, an older couple with an older dog. As they near my place on the stone bench, I tell them of the three bucks ahead in case they want to leash their dog. ‘Her name is Phoebe’- and Phoebe comes to me, a graying standard poodle with a close summer cut, thin, her old hip bones sticking out, her eyes a little cloudy. She is gentle, she exudes love. She bestows a kiss upon me I did not know I needed so much. We talk a bit, the couple and I- of the woods and the weather. This morning walk of theirs is a lifelong ritual, a partnership settled into comfortable balance. A small movement in the trees catches my eye and I see the three little raccoons I encountered with their mother last week. About 25 yards off, they are clambering up a vine-covered tree, their mother must have gone up ahead. I point them out to the couple, but only she is able to see which tree before they disappear into the canopy. I watch her try to show him where to look, kindness flowing between them, and I am suddenly glad for our encounter. My selfishness falls away like a cloak I have dropped. Three encounters of three, a fairy tale scaffold- three bucks, three raccoons, the old woman, man and dog, all these moments of peace under the watchful eye of the owl as the wrens chitter away. I set out for the peace of wild things and found it too in human hearts. I am happy to share this path with them.