I hadn’t seen a fox in the wild for years. Even longer since I’d driven in deep darkness swallowed up by thick drifting fog. For both things to happen on the same day was really quite marvellous. I was spending my day off with my dear friend Larry. He was crafting a ‘retreat’ for himself in a way that only Larry can: staying in a friend’s house at Beech Forest in the Otways, surrounded by books scattered around the house. Books about poetry and art, as well as a few unread and previously, read novels.
We were having one of our painting days. We had chosen a view from the lounge room window of a grassy slope blanketed in thick fog shrouding several eucalyptus trees. It was a soft grey day and just a little bit eerie with gentle light trying to make its presence felt from above and to the North. While we attempted to capture this rather beautiful little landscape, a reddish-brown fox trotted daintily across the wet paddock. She ducked effortlessly under wire fences and made her way to a hedgerow in the distance. A short while later she returned with something like a bread roll in her jaws as she trotted back to where she had come. A little while later she made the same trip. A den somewhere and probably some cubs. Some Maggies swooped in and away, disappearing quickly into the fog.
The landscape was quite challenging to paint – the light kept changing and the scene kept shifting. How do you capture the magic of sunlight breaking through the fog? Or the hint of moisture on the ground? Or the arrival of an unexpected visitor – vilified by farmers, killer of native species, but a creature of astonishing beauty?
The evening arrived quite suddenly. So, we sat by the wood heater, feeling the radiating warmth of burning logs and the visual delight of red and orange flames hovering over white and grey charcoal embers. We savoured the pleasantness of a full glass of a nice red wine and thoughtful conversation
At that moment, I found myself thinking about ‘feology’ – foxes, fog, forests, friends, and faith.
Last week was a tough week personally – but once again, I experienced the restorative power of nature to heal and hold. That wonderful poem by Wendel Berry filled my thoughts:
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world and am free.