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  • Mj Pettengill

Marya of the Wood: The Return of the Fox


The Fox and the Girl     (Max Pixel)
The Fox and the Girl (Max Pixel)

The summer of 2020 was unforgettable. Other than the emergence of prominent events during the beginning of a massive transition in human civilization, I had life-altering experiences to add to what had become a dense and rigid world.

It was the summer of conquering Lyme disease. And during an attempt to cross a dried-up pond, I almost wholly disappeared in black mud and silt, resulting in an injury that has only recently subsided. The most meaningful incident during that monumental summer was befriending a gray fox that I named Swift.

I have shared this story before. I believe that I manifested Swift's arrival. During the previous winter, I created a series about Glenna the Snowgirl. Her best friend is Swift. In addition to the text, this series includes images.

How excited I was when Swift, the gray fox, showed up in real-time during the spring, responding to the sound of my voice.

To process the unprecedented changes as they washed over me, I did what I have done since I can recall—I reclaimed my place in nature. Unless unusual circumstances prevail, I enter the wild at least once daily. Not only do I forage for plant edibles and medicine, but I also enjoy responsibly mingling with my furry, pond-dwelling, and feathered neighbors.

At first, I wasn't sure how to respond to all that swirled about. I decided to turn to the wise council—the Great White Pines. During my many trips placing out and bringing in bird feeders to keep the bears safe from misunderstanding human interaction, I would stop and look to the council.

With limbs outstretched, they swayed against a pumpkin-colored sky. I noticed each night a new shade of clouds that rushed across the heavens, creating some of the most spectacular sunsets I had ever seen anywhere in the world. It became the new norm and is still happening now.

Without a reference point regarding the thoughts and emotions that washed over me, I did something else that I often fell back on. I lifted my voice, joining a chorus of peepers, wood frogs, hermit thrushes, and vireos. This is what I did as my last expression of each day. It was my signal to all that wished to know that I was done going in and out. It was safe to show up for the remnants of seeds, nuts, and apples.

Together we sang, our melodies mingling, dancing across the treetops, over the vernal pool, and drifting into the woods. I didn't sing just any song. I sang a self-composed tune that combines an aria and a herding call that rings and echoes throughout the land.

Kulning or herding calls is a domestic Scandanavian music form, often used to call livestock (cows, goats, etc.) down from high mountain pastures where they have been grazing during the day (1).

Although these calls are also known to frighten predators, my particular call beckoned the fox. I was quite pleased when Swift trotted to the backyard. I began a new ritual. I placed a few apple slices out, and after my call to the council, I came inside, sat before an open window, and played the same tune on my cello.

This ritual occurred almost daily. Swift and I rarely missed one another. I never attempted to tame her or interact other than through the screen door and window. It was moving when she came with her kits at the end of the summer. They stayed safely hidden in the ferns.

There was a powerful lesson in this. When, in late August, Swift did not return, I was sad. I still went to our spot by the apple tree, left pieces of apples, sang, and played our tune on the cello. She never returned. The lesson was in letting go. Also, it is essential to practice gratitude for the beautiful experience itself. It could not be all about my injured feelings. I gave thanks for getting to know her as I did. Besides, there was always the following summer.

The summer of 2021 came and went, and I did not see a trace of Swift. I did the call and played my cello by the open window. I thought her kits would surely remember this place of nourishment and entertainment. They did not. The lesson continued to show itself to me. It would only result in peace if I honestly let go.

About a month ago, I stood before the council and sang the familiar call. I said, do come back. I'm ready. I carried on without any expectations and with a heart filled with gratitude.

The following morning, I sat at the garden's edge singing and collecting St. John's Wort blossoms. I heard a rustling and there before me, just a few feet away, was a magnificent gray fox. In the past, there was always a screen between us. This time we were face to face, both a bit surprised. It turned and started to bolt. I said quietly, don't go. It's okay.

The fox paused and looked back at me before trotting into the woods. I was both humbled and thankful, and I expected nothing more.

This is not Swift. I do not know if this is her offspring or a new neighbor. This being has different markings on its face and is noticeably taller. Its presence is a blessing.

That evening, I stood before the council and sang the familiar kulning call. I then left some apples. I did not sit by the window and wait, although I was tempted. I went about my business, and from time to time, I looked out. I was thrilled to see the fox just before dark. It watched me through the window and ate the apples before running back into the woods.

I did not play my cello, and that's okay. Frida—a Viking name meaning peace—does not seem to be the lingering type. During the past month, I have learned that she is here for the food. Swift enjoyed Scottish folk tunes, keeping my skills sharp.

Once again, my intentions are not to cross any boundaries. The local environment—habitats—of late are at risk. Therefore, I will continue with my offerings for as long as needed.

I will sing, pray, and maintain my place amidst this glorious wildness. I give thanks for Frida's arrival. As I do all creatures, I honor her presence and expect nothing in return.



Source Cited:

(1) <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kulning>