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  • Mj Pettengill

Marya of the Wood: The Return of Swift and Song


Gray Fox (Stock Photo)
Gray Fox, (Stock Photo)

Last summer, I spoke of her often. Our sacred bond—ancient and deeply rooted in wild trust—was forged in music. I manifested her two winters ago while crafting a story about a magical snowgirl, Glenna. Her best friend is a gray fox named Swift. I went as far as creating graphic images, developing a unique alliance between them.

It was the first winter of the global upheaval, unprecedented dramatic changes resulting in the current, ongoing shift. So, as one who has enjoyed a long-term connection with the wild, it only made sense for me to go deeper into that world, our world.


For countless hours, I sat on the prayer rock observing, singing, praying. Viewing the world in those raw moments reminded me of death and becoming undaughtered. I learned that loss was about perceiving the world without him or her in it. It was a different kind of birth, unfamiliar pain. The choice is to let it in or run away. I never run.

It was March, damp and dry at the same time. The fields—blanketed in a bed of colorless grass from the previous summer, offered no comfort. With so much uncertainty, I could only wonder if spring would arrive. I closed my eyes and imagined honey bees dancing lightly from one blossom to the next. I conjured the scent of lilacs and the song of the winged ones.

Within moments, I heard the call of a tufted titmouse. Setting aside my disquietude, I gladly answered it. Each time I did, it came closer until it was sitting above my head on a low pine branch. When we were singing back and forth, my heart filled with hope. With so many gifts of life and abundance in our world, how could I continue to slide into darkness? Of all people, I knew better than this.

Typically, at the end of my long winter’s sleep, I wander outdoors exploring the promises of spring, celebrating the abundance of life that percolates within Our Mother’s womb. I anticipate the offerings of fertile fields, mossy-green woods, and prolific gardens. But, unfortunately, this all seemed too far away.

My singing exchange with the bird awakened me. I remembered that I was born into this. All of the creatures, medicinal plants, and trees were in it with me. One of the most dangerous things that we can do is forget to sing and dance. I had been playing my cello but stopped when the orchestras were canceled. Only because I didn’t know what came next, I mourned the unknowing. I had forgotten the importance of trust. Yes, I can see in the dark in this land where I belong. It is filled with gifts and mysteries that cannot be defined. All is well.

In the spring, I bring the bird feeders inside. I do this to maintain a healthy boundary between myself and the bears. Then, throughout the day, I go in and out with my nuts and seeds, feeding the birds and small furry creatures.


It was twilight in April 2020, when the world we knew was in the early phases of radical change. I stood in the middle of the wise tree council, at the edge of the field, near the brook and vernal pool, and I sang. This was not a song with words but tones from the deepest part of me. It reminds me of kulning or herding calls—originating in Norway and Sweden—sung in a valley, ringing and echoing against the mountains.

I did not intend to call in cows or sheep. Instead, I felt the overwhelming desire to sing out, to let my wild brothers and sisters know that I was there, and it was my last call of the night. This became a ritual for me, a means of release, expression, and connection. So I sang the same melody, which I had imprinted on myself.

Soon, I noticed a gray fox in and around the area. Before that, I had only seen red foxes. This creature was quite beautiful. I read that they liked apples and other fruits, so I placed a few apple slices by the roses after singing my song. Then, I went to my room and played that same melody on my cello.

It became a nightly ritual: I sing, leave a few pieces of apples near the edge of the woods, go to my room, and play my cello. The fox comes out of the woods, eats, and becomes an appreciative audience. I never once attempted to go near her or cross our healthy boundaries.

She visited nightly. My song was consistent and seemed to echo beyond the hills. Yes, the orchestras were no more, but I had another reason to play music. She even brought her cubs now and then. They played on the hillside outside of my window.


Then, some time in mid-August, she stopped coming. With a heavy heart, I reminded myself to look for the learning. I found it in the lesson of impermanence. Nothing lasts forever. It was vital to appreciate her presence and give thanks. Sacrifice lacks love. If I give from the heart, expecting nothing in return, I am balanced.

Over a year has passed. It is mid-June, and I have done well in my acceptance of what will be. However, last night, when I was bringing in the feeders. I paused, not expecting anything other than a stirring within. It was not planned when I sang out to the council of trees and all that would hear. It had been too long. My heart was full, and it was time.

I sang the melody, loud and clear. I smiled and imagined how she looked running out of the woods through the tall ferns. Before I returned to the house, I stopped on the step. “Goodnight. I miss you.”

Then I went about my business. In less than a minute, I passed by the window and saw a gray fox. It could have been Swift or one of her offspring. I’m grateful for the inspiration, the secret of belonging, and the gift of song, an offering that echoes into the depths of this wild Earth.