A Fox Tale

Late last night, on the way home from Edinburgh, I ran over and killed a fox. It had suddenly appeared as a sillouette in my headlights; like the idea of a fox conjured up by my weary mind on the dark road. Then it was gone. I couldn’t stop on the duel carraigeway as there was traffic behind me. I felt shaken and distraught. I just killed something!

I love foxes. I once spent a magical hour watching a playful pup dancing on the graveyard lights in St Cuthbert’s church in Edinburgh. It followed me to the cemetry gates where I had to shoo it away, as it might have followed me out onto the street and all the way home. I went to sleep thinking about that fox and how fragile life is. One second it is there, animated and full of spirit. The next it can be gone, like it never existed. I’m not religious, but I began to think of the spirit of the fox and all foxes and hoped that maybe I had set this one free. Poor consolation, perhaps!

Of course, I realise that killing this wild animal was an unavoidable accident. And I know we sometimes look for meanings in these situations, whether they exist or not, probably for our own comfort. This morning I was still upset and felt a need for that comfort and meaning. So I read about the nature of foxes and their use symbols in life and art. I learned that they hunt with their entire body, head to tail, stretched out, poised and pointed like an arrow; focussed only on one thing, their target. This is exactly how the fox appeared to me for that split second in the headlights. It must have been hunting. In art, the fox is often used as a symbol for inspiration and the emergence of ideas. This reminded me of one of my favourite poems, The Thought Fox, by Ted Hughes. His fox took him from staring down in frustration at the blank page on his desk to writing one of the best poems in the English language. I’m not expecting my poor fox to do the same for me, but I do feel more inspired today than I did yesterday. And hopefully I’ll be a little more focussed in my life and work in future too.

So Mr Fox, if you are out there somewhere, thank you for that!

And I’m sorry!

Here’s a link to Ted Hughes reading of The Thought Fox


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