Linda spotted a fox crossing our driveway yesterday. It moved on delicate paws, stopped for a quick survey of the surroundings, and continued on, purposefully, towards the woods. I was sorry to have missed it because I always savor a sighting of one; it’s such a rare occurrence. Not quite a feline, not quite a canine, foxes are a fluid blend of both (although strictly speaking, they are a canine), and they fascinate me. When Linda told me about the animal, I wondered if its mate was nearby. Foxes pair up in mid- to late-December, usually with the same mate each year. Anyone who makes a habit of studying animal tracks will tell you that, like clockwork, the arrival of winter coincides with a change in fox tracks. Throughout the fall, foxes are solitary, leaving a lonely, single line of tracks after early snows, but around the solstice, nearly every line of fox tracks has a companion set running parallel to it, sometimes up to two hundred yards away, sometimes just beside it, left by a mate. The two foxes roam and hunt together before establishing a den and giving birth to a liter of kits, often around Valentine’s Day. They raise the kits throughout the rest of the winter, spring, and summer, before the family breaks up at summer’s end.
As I held Violet today and looked out into the postcard snow, I thought of that fox and its mate, both of them preparing to start a family in a harsh and handsome world. I couldn’t help feeling a small measure of kinship.