The other night I found myself in a fairy tale.
It was about a captive animal and the central character was that traditional hero, (more often anti-hero) of fables: a fox.
I don’t know about you but I can understand why foxes feature in so many traditional fairy tales.
It’s partly their wild beauty, mystery and mostly I think their bold, brazen nature towards us humans. Like their American counterparts, coyotes, foxes have adapted to city life. They refuse to be tamed, dominated, pushed out of their homes or used by us and yet live alongside us.
These howling, baying, screaming, fighting, scavenging, savage cat-dogs roam the streets, gardens and parks of the town where I live. It is a joy to hear their primal howls in the night reverberating off the sandstone tenements.
Close to midnight, I sat in my living room with the curtains of the window wide open. Outside, the back yard with its jungle of rhododendrons, holly and clematis-tangled hedges, mature oaks, beech and pine trees and various bushes and small plants was shadowy and black. I was reading and all was quiet.
Suddenly, a lithe shape at the window.
A fox stared through the glass at me.
His paws were planted in the window box and he just stood. Still. Unafraid. Staring into my eyes, his nose close to the window but not sniffing it. I stared back. I didn’t move. I expected him to flee at the sudden sight of a human like any other wild animal. But he just went on staring, at me.
He didn’t cast his eyes around to survey with curiosity the room I sat in. He didn’t nervously glance behind him or check his footing was firm. He just stared and stared into my eyes for endless seconds. Such a long time.
His absolute wildness made him unfathomable to me. Deeply unrecognisable. His wildness was both alarming and alluring. We held each other’s stare, and hopefully mine was as unjudgemental as his, then he was gone. I didn’t even see him move. He was just gone.
How remarkable. How gloriously extraordinary. To sit on my sofa in my living room in the city and have a fox in my window box stare in at me.
I, the zoo-hater, in my little enclosure.