The local fox used to be brazen – a true vixen. Would match my longing for a glimpse with startling appearances that left me breathless. Since those magical times, fox encounters have become more elusive. No in-person sightings, but my motion detector camera lets me know of occasional visits. And every so often I find telltale tokens on my deck or on the driveway. This fox is particular about scat placement, seeming to prefer slightly elevated locations, on rocks or where the asphalt has buckled.
My son and I have each buried a special dog on the hillside near my house. Their graves are within ten feet of each other – they were great friends. Each gravesite is encircled with large stones we have collected from favorite places we frequented with Otis and Shadow. There are smooth rounded rocks from the nearby San Lorenzo River, red dusty volcanic chunks from the foothills of the Sierras, and special stones from friends who loved these two black and white canines.
This neighborhood fox brings his offerings to this special area, always choosing a flat grey rock in Otis’s circle. Occasionally, when I go to visit Otis, I find a tidy dry turd there, with delicate white bones and stiff hairs strewn throughout. As scat goes, this is elegant. I am tickled by his ritual and figure it gives Otis some company. When I cracked a favorite cup featuring a red fox, I decided this is where it should end its days, rather than in the local dump. It adds a cheerful note.
Two weeks ago, I stepped off the trail to pay my respects. I burst out laughing. I’ve never seen such clean, colorful scat – the two-inch mounds look more like granola bars than fecal matter. I considered other contributors, but there have been no signs of coyotes or raccoons in the last year. And other than the fox, no other animal – wild or domesticated – has deposited here before. It appears he has been licking up my scattered birdseed, supplemented with a few Manzanita berries.
We’ve had days of rain, so it was almost two weeks before I called again. I did a double-take. The scat had become a lush garden bed, with tall slender shoots of dark wild grass sprouting from the surfaces, probably from seeds the fox ingested. I know this may seem strange, all this attention to scatological matters. But it keeps me posted on what’s happening with my local fox – what he’s eating, when he visits. And I’ll probably never know, but I wonder, what is it about this particular rock?
Marilyn DuHamel is a psychotherapist and writer who lives in Ben Lomond. She regularly posts essays on her blog, Earth Dialogues, at www.marilynduhamel.com. Her intention is to help people care more deeply about the natural world, believing that what we love we will not turn away from.