Tuesday, 18 October 2011


I'm driving through the rain on this October night when I glimpse a movement ahead. As I slow the car to turn into my street, I'm half listening to some guitar-based dad rock while my head churns over a remark someone made at work today, when there it is in the headlights. A fox.

A fox, not a cat, is silhouetted against a garden wall ahead. It slinks in the shelter of the wall then turns to face the car. For a moment everything stops: my hands on the wheel. The music. My thoughts. Time itself. There's a moment of still. I look at the fox and the fox looks at me. Its eyes are wide open, dark, lovely and unreadable. There is no doubting its foxiness: the pricked-up ears, the whiskered snout, its gingery coat made pale by the orange streetlight glow. Fox turns tail - a proper fox-shaped bushy tail - and scarpers over the wall. Then it is gone and I am in the middle of the road, still turning, turning, turning the wheel towards home.

Afterwards my evening is not the same. I hear sirens and traffic noise outside, and imagine the fox out in the great dark.

Perhaps mysteries always lurk just behind the ordinary world. And perhaps it is not great perception but simple luck whether we chance upon a mystery, or whether we drive past, oblivious.


  1. This is so lovely... and I have a particular soft spot for foxes. (They seem to feature prominently in my novel in progress...) Yes so beautiful and mysterious. Your description is perfect, not only of the fox, but of the effect such an unexpected encounter can have on us.

    Do you know the poem "The Undeniable Pressure of Existence" by Patricia Fargnoli? (I often teach this as a way to introduce students to poetry.) Your ruminations here reminded me of it: http://writersalmanac.publicradio.org/index.php?date=2005/09/15

    Thanks for the wonderful post! :)

  2. Thanks Dawna, this is a wonderful poem. I love the juxtaposition of the fox in the alien urban environment; I had that same sense of surprise when I saw 'mine' that I got in this poem. The poem I tried very hard not to think about when I wrote it was Ted Hughes' The Thought Fox: "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:The_Thought-Fox" BTW, I'm intrigued by the sound of your novel. Let me know if you need a sympathetic reader (!)