Creature Comforts

When we first spotted the fox pups, they were always close to the barn under which they’ve been living. Lately, they’ve been having wild parties in our backyard. I could watch them gamboling and cavorting all day long. I wish I could capture it on film, but they’ve gotten much warier and will usually disappear into their den as soon as they spot me.

They’ve been venturing further afield into the paddock and the woods, I think in search of food. Sometimes they dig in the ground, maybe for worms? I’ve seen them tentatively taste the weeds. This poor pup was hungrily gnawing on some dead leaves.

After a busy day, the pups usually collapse in a tired heap in front of their den.

This morning I spotted them making themselves even more comfortable. One of the cushions from a deck chair must have blown into the yard. I was sure the pups would bolt if they heard the door open, so I took these photos from my kitchen window.

The Peace of Wild Things

April 19th

It’s been a rough week…I hadn’t realized how much I’ve been depending on my daily dose of baby fox therapy until they disappeared for a couple days. I thought they had abandoned the nest, and I was devastated. Thank goodness they came out again today, because couldn’t we all use a little baby fox therapy? It’s just been a few days, but they already look more grown up…

Fox Pups

Yet here was the thing in the midst of the bones, the wide-eyed, innocent fox inviting me to play, with the innate courtesy of its two forepaws placed appealingly together, along with a mock shake of the head. The universe was swinging in some fantastic fashion around to present its face, and the face was so small that the universe itself was laughing.

Loren Eiseley, “The Innocent Fox”

The Vixen

Late one night last winter, my daughter heard eerie, high-pitched screaming, and was convinced I was being murdered in our own yard.

What she was hearing was the lovestruck moonlight serenade of this vixen…

Her siren call did not go unanswered, and now we have pups nesting in the old groundhog burrows under our barn.

Septuplets! And as far as I can tell, she isn’t getting any help at all from the baby daddy.

She’s the hardest working mama on the block…

She is always hustling back and forth from the woods to the den.

The pups are still nursing and are always clamoring for her attention.

They are always so happy to see her…

Sometimes I watch her trying to get a break from the pups. She wanders away from the den and wearily gazes off into the distance. I imagine she is reflecting on her life choices, and wishing the kids’ deadbeat dad would show up every now and then to help out.

Tomorrow: Fox Pups

Mutual Bafflement

My husband and I split up on Saturday. It was just for the day, but what caused us to go our separate ways was something that has always divided us and that reveals how very different we are.

My husband loves nothing better than to camp and hike in the great tick-ridden, mosquito-filled, venomous-snake-laced outdoors. I too adore nature. I am enthralled by the writings of naturalists such as Loren Eiseley and Annie Dillard. I am awed by nature photography and documentaries. I am stirred by poetry that celebrates the seasons, the starry firmament, or the miracle of life in all of its myriad manifestations…But Lord knows I certainly don’t want to actually be in nature.

I can’t fathom it. Why would you subject yourself to the hassle and discomfort of camping, if you weren’t homeless? Why would you want to gnaw on dry, uncooked food fished out of a hot, sweaty backpack? We’ve progressed so far beyond this! Flushing toilets, hot showers, comfortable beds, refrigeration, microwaves, air-conditioning, couches! Why would you give that all up on purpose?

…Which brings me back to Saturday. My husband decided it would be the perfect day to go on a hike in the Blue Ridge. I decided it would be the perfect day to take a daytrip to visit my parents and sister in Arlington. We knew the boys would want to go hiking, but we weren’t sure what our daughter’s preference would be. We presented her with the two options, never dreaming that we would be inflicting an agonizing Sophie’s Choice moment on her. Honestly, she looked like she was going to cry as she deliberated out loud.

“I really, really want to go to Grandma and Grandpa’s, but I really, really want to go hiking too!”

“Well,” I reasoned, bewildered by the fact that this was actually a difficult choice, and trying to make the decision a little easier for her, “I’m planning to take you to their house over Labor Day weekend, and that’s only a week away, so maybe you should go hiking.”

“But that’s SEVEN WHOLE DAYS,” she wailed.

Finally, we decided to put the poor girl out of her misery by flipping a coin. She went on the hike.

In Arlington as my sister and I drove to Harris Teeter to pick up some groceries, she asked me what my husband and kids were doing.

“They’re going hiking,” I said, shrugging my shoulders.

Hiking?! What do you even do on a hike?” she asked.

“Well…I guess you drive to a mountain, find a trail, and then walk up to the top.”

“Why would you do that?” she asked, sincerely mystified.

“I have no idea. It’s not as if they’re being chased by Nazis.”

“Huh! I just don’t get it.”

“Me neither. That’s why I’m here, and not there.”

At that moment my husband called. He and the kids had gotten back from the hike and he was checking on my whereabouts.

“Ask him why he went hiking and if he really thinks that’s an enjoyable activity,” my sister urged.

I relayed her questions to him. He was rendered speechless. All he could muster was a: “Hunh?!?!”

“Oooh, gotta go,” I told him and hurriedly hung up the phone, because just then I witnessed a real spectacle of nature! I saw a flock of little birds taking a dirt bath in the mulch rings around the trees by the grocery store parking lot. I hung out of the window of my sister’s air-conditioned car and took a picture with my camera phone:

Ahhh, nature!

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The Japanese Tea Garden

Just a couple more San Francisco posts…

The Japanese Tea Garden is one of my favorite places on earth.

The garden was originally created as a temporary exhibit for the California Midwinter International Exposition in 1894. At the conclusion of the expo, landscape architect Baron Makoto Hagiwara offered to create a permanent garden. He lovingly oversaw the garden’s design and building and became its official caretaker until his death in 1925. He and his family took up residence in the garden and he devoted all of his own personal wealth into expanding and developing it into a place of exquisite perfection. In 1942 Hagiwara’s family, who had continued to maintain the garden after his death, was forcibly relocated to an internment camp. They were never allowed to return to their home again.

You can have tea and snacks in the garden’s teahouse, where weekly tea ceremonies are performed. (The teahouse is the low building on the left.

There’s a gift shop right next door to the teahouse full of beautiful displays. These are chopstick rests:


The teeny tiny little Japanese woman in the shop must have taken ten minutes to wrap up my purchases with all sorts of embellishments. Tomorrow, I’ll show you what’s inside!

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