Brad and I have fallen into a bit of a routine when we get to the farm. We unload everything we brought down to the farm for the week and try to put it away immediately so that it’s one less thing to think about that evening. Then we put on our boots and head out for a walk with Willow. It feels good to stretch the legs after a 2+ hour car ride and well, the whole point of being at the farm is to enjoy the land.
Usually, we walk the trail. It’s in the first field and it veers into the bush, where we meander down to the stream to see how high the water is and check out all of the flora and fauna along the way. We pop out of the trail at the end of the first field and cut left to the bridge to see what it looks like around there. To some, that may seem incredibly boring, to take the same route over and over again, but I am telling you, it’s visually new every time we walk that path, and this time was no exception.
As Brad and I followed Willow into the 2nd field, we decided to continue that way, taking another path we occasionally explore to another part of the land where the two streams meet. We like to check out the cedars we planted and smile every time they aren’t nibbled, thinking we’ve outsmarted the deer yet again. (But we are smart enough to know the deer are much smarter than us!) We have a large brush pile in the second field that Brad adds to whenever he has a chance to use his brush saw.
As we rounded the corner of the brush pile, I stopped abruptly because I noticed the undeniable colour of a fox. I asked Brad if what I was seeing was true, and as we walked closer, it was apparent that we had come across a fox that had passed away. I couldn’t believe it. It was so strange to see this wild animal, curled up so peacefully, as if calmly sleeping on an old pile of hay. I even asked Brad if maybe the fox was sleeping. I was hopeful even though I knew in my heart of hearts that wouldn’t be the case. It was just so unexpected and so mesmerizing at the same time. The animal was flawless and looked like he was almost smiling. It was as if he quietly sauntered up to that pile, nestled in and decided it was time to not wake up again. We both started bawling. I snapped two photos and walked away. I couldn’t look back and we both decided to not go back there for a while. As much as I am aware of the processes of nature, I wanted that beautifully sad image to remain in my mind’s eye, not an image of what we knew was going to happen.
As you know, I post photos every day on my Facebook account when we are at the farm. I share photos of our everyday adventures and the progress we are making in that space. When I posted the photo of the fox, my friends had the same response we did. they too said it was beautiful and heartbreaking, vulnerable and surreal. Everyone else was as overwhelmed as we were.
The next day, while drinking my coffee from the bunkhouse, I had a direct view of the brush pile. I couldn’t help but wish that maybe the fox ran away. Maybe it was just sleeping and playing a trick on us to make us believe he was dead. Maybe an animal dragged him away in the night. Maybe he was back at his den and everything is ok. I just really wished that little fox had a different outcome. In that instant, he challenged my concepts of mortality, exploited my denial of the obvious, and made me stop and reflect on big questions like “What is this all about? What am I doing with my life? Am I on the right path?” Things got deep.
That night, the northern lights exploded through the night sky. I always think of gypsies when I think of the northern lights; dancing with long colourful skirts in green and yellow, holding the edges of the hem and swinging their arms, letting the folds of the material undulate through the night. And I can’t help but feel a bit spiritual when I see them. I know it is science and I know it’s sun bursts and magnetic fields…. I know this, but I still whistle at the lights and think of all those I love that have left this world and hope that they are up there dancing with the gypsies. That would be divine.
And then the next day, I was given the news that my lovely friend, Vince, passed away. I had just experienced two days of unexplainable natural beauty and loss, and now this. Now my friend; the trickster, the joker, the softie, the curious, nature loving human being was also dancing with the gypsies. Vince would like that…a lot. Especially if they’re pretty gypsies. Vince would laugh at that comment. I am smiling now just thinking about it.
Was I being given signs from nature to prepare myself for the loss of my friend? Was I given this little, soft ever-sleeping fox as a reminder to reach out to those you care about but don’t take the time to see? Were the northern lights there to let me know my friend was gone, but he was ok? I don’t know. Nature has the effect of conjuring so much thought in us that truly goes beyond the practical, scientific reality of what is occurring. It can genuinely bring one to their knees in complete awe, and like Brad and I did when we stumbled across that fox, weep like we had lost someone that we had known all our life. And we had.
And others wept along side us. When I shared the photo of the fox on various social media to my favourite homesteading groups, the comments exploded through my iPhone. People wondered, as we did, what had happened to this little being. People wept at the sight, at the tragedy of it all. People worried of disease, or poisoning. People wondered why we didn’t call the vet. We were asked to bury it, cover it in flowers, burn it, skin it, save the pelt, stuff it and bring it into our home forever…..ultimately, people mourned with us as if they too had walked around our brush pile and into this incredible loss.
Of the thousands of interactions with this photo, I had one person that was adamant that either Brad or I had intentionally killed this little fox and set it up in that hay bale to get a photo. People get dark, and it saddens me that a person’s first thought can go there. Some were straight up happy that the fox was dead, as they are considered a nuisance in their parts of the world. Others shared their own experiences with coming across animals that had died on their land, and others wanted a full autopsy to know exactly what happened to that little fox. Some prayed and rejoiced that the fox had gone across the “rainbow bridge” and to not have to bear another cold winter.
Ultimately, the majority were content in knowing that this little fox found the most comfortable resting place, in a spot that we feel is the most magnificent in the world, to have its last breath. To all of those questions, we had no answers. All we had was what we saw and our own experiences and beliefs to connect it to. None of us truly know exactly what to do when confronted with death but bumble forward.
And as creatives, these experiences inspire:
Serendipitously, as I was writing this blog, someone that had come across the photo on Facebook contacted me. Jordan Danger, a Canadian artist, wanted to share a whimsical painting she did of the fox, surrounded by colourful flowers. I was speechless at the simple beauty of it all. Just perfect. Please be sure to click on the link to follow Jordan on Instagram. It was just what I needed to see when thinking about this little fox and my friend Vince and not understanding this world at all, really.
That is the incredible power of Mother Nature. What she puts before us goes beyond definition and into a realm of subconsciousness that we desperately try to explain visually or descriptively. We paint, and we dance, we write and we splash in puddles, and look up at the stars and smell the flowers, grasping for the right way to express what is impossible to capture. And that’s where the magic happens, when we relent and stop fighting our creative urges and just take solace in the peace of a dead fox and northern lights and what it truly offers us.
Rest in peace, Vince. I love you, my friend.
Head over to my resource library to read the poem in plain text, if you’d like. (If you are new to my blog, it is password protected, so you will have to subscribe to my newsletter to gain access. Thank you.)