Running with a Red Fox

The Little River Regional Park and Natural Area.

I ran through the green-lit woods of Little River Park this morning, down to the Eno and up over the North Ridge. Everything was in motion: the carpenter bees mating (imagine two B-52s turning cartwheels around each other in the air, and occasionally connecting!), the squirrels darting up trees at my approach, the green beetles leaping across the path, the fiddle-head ferns nodding in the sun, the dragonflies and butterflies bobbing in the breeze.

Everything is dusted green with pine pollen, even the tiny star-flowers along the path. The Eno is up and singing over new waterfalls, cascading over dams  of winter-felled trees. (The temptation to acquire a kayak grows ever stronger!) And I’m still fishing cobwebs out of my hair … good thing they blend.

I am in a strange place with the running … I have tried three times in the last year to build my endurance past 20 minutes of running, and failed each time. At least now I know why; recent bloodwork reveals I am anemic as all get-out, which explains why I am losing my wind and energy before I am really tired.

I was beating myself up over it; or assuming, “Well, this is me getting older.” Which of course it is; but why bemoan the state? It was the self-acceptance part I was having trouble with.

Now, knowing an organic cause, I am moving as much as I can, which this morning meant running the downhills and flats, and walking the uphills as briskly as possible. Meeting myself where I am, so to speak. (Maybe I will learn this well enough to meet you where you are, when next we meet!)

Having forgiven myself for being neither a fast nor a long-distance runner, I could relax into the run today, once I loosened up. Running through the woods requires one to pay attention to each footfall, lest one trip over a rock or root. And once your breath settles into a rhythm, your eyes and feet seem directly connected. And then the feedback from each footfall begins to truly register; I feel the earth, the way Thich Nhat Hahn describes in his instructions for walking meditation. My body’s ability to breathe and run enchants me. Until the uphill. And then I have a different pleasure: feeling my breathing slow, deepen; feeling my seeing slow to capture more detail at the slower pace.

It was on one of those uphills that I heard a crash-and-flutter that didn’t quit, the way startled squirrel-noise does. I heard something running near me just about the moment my eyes picked up a flash of reddish-brown with a white-tipped tail streaking through the woods just above me. “Fox!” my mind registered after a moment, and then “big!” and “fast!” As I realized it was a fox and not a wild dog or woodchuck, my eyes strained even harder to see: I froze, to let my eyes focus as clearly and see as deliberately as possible.

She was the most beautiful blur I’d ever seen, and so much bigger than I had imagined a fox would be. I’d estimate about three feet from nose to tail-tip, and probably two, two-and-a-half feet tall. As big as a medium-sized dog. And she was flying! Like a squirrel, there were leaps among the runs … I knew that feeling, a little bit. Sometimes in the middle of a run, my eyes would see an upjutting rock or root, and I’d lengthen stride mid-step to avoid it. Her leaps were longer — her joy probably wilder, too, once away from whatever had startled her.

What a glorious spring this is … how good to be alive in it. How grateful I am to the county that has provided and maintained the park and its trails, and to the fox, for her running beauty, and to the God who gives me the grace to move however I can.

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1 Response to Running with a Red Fox

  1. AnnMarie says:

    One time I was walking in the clearing of some woods and suddenly a deer bounded in front of me as if I had missed a red light and she had the green. I have seen many deer either from a distance or after someone had brought it home as food for the table. But this deer, 6 inches from my nose, was an astounding sight. Her muscles rippled, her gait was smooth, and she landed and lept in silence. I hope I never forget the strength and grace of her.

    I’m glad that you met your fox today. We have seen our Divine Beloved through these her wonders!

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