This morning’s wake up call came from my cat when she leapt from the bed toward the wall of northwest windows. It was well before sunrise, but bright enough to reveal what caught her attention. Just beyond the garden, a fox hid, crouched behind the bare branches of viburnum. Before I could react, the fox swiftly attacked its prey and in a moment it was over. Then, in a streaky red-orange blur, the skillful hunter carried its catch to the open slope. What did it take? In the half light, a long, fluffy tail dangled from the fox’s jaws. It was a gray squirrel. At the moment I recognized this, another flash of movement caught my eye. To the left, a large hawk —perhaps hunting the same prey— retreated to the cover of a tall pine.
If you know me, you know well that I am a friend of the squirrel. Having rescued, raised and released an orphaned kit in 2011, the red squirrel in particular is quite close to my heart. But if you’ve known me a long time, and very well, you know of my deep connection to the fox and its cousin coyote. I respect the ways of nature. To see predator and prey in action —admiring the beauty and strength of each species— was very powerful. The fox prevailed —swift and efficient— taking what she needed to survive and nothing more. After her success, the cat-like canine rolled playfully in the snow, soaking up the first rays of early morning sun.
My friend M sent me a special gift from Albuquerque last month. The creation of New Mexico artist Lauren Tobey, a squirrel vertebra cast in silver now hangs round my wrist, suspended by thin strips of leather. M tells me that the skeleton was found in a garden —bleached white in complete perfection— and given to the artist for her work. I feel the squirrel’s spirit today as I remember events from the morning.