I arrived in PEI National Park today – a long, narrow tract of land that encompasses miles and miles of pristine beaches and soft sand dunes. The Gulf of St. Lawrence is profoundly blue – a deep, dark shade that seems to well up from its inner depths. I can imagine sitting here for hours, entranced by the long, rolling waves that push persistently forward onto the tawny shore.
As happy as I am to be here, I’ve been a little troubled today. Part of the reason for this is due to something happened on the drive over.
The drive itself was perfectly lovely, over gently rolling hills and through farms and fields. At one point, I saw a meadow glowing brightly in the cheerful morning light, and a fox walking with a carefree air, the warmth of the sun on its glossy, red coat.
I love foxes. Well, I love all animals, but for some reason, foxes appear to me a lot in my dreams, like they are trying to impart some of their wild wisdom in my consciousness. I try hard to listen.
I pulled over to watch the fox, and got of of my car, peering admiringly from a safe distance through a few trees. The fox saw me, and we stood for a few moments gazing at each other. I assumed it would dart away any moment, but then it did something unexpected. It ran over to me!
So now, the fox was about 12 feet away, on the side of the road. I immediately felt concerned – both because I didn’t want it to get hit by a car, but also because I know that foxes can carry rabies. However, it quickly became apparent to me that this fox was just curious. It was a young fox, perhaps 4 or 5 months old, and it probably either hadn’t learned to fear humans yet, or it had received handouts from people and therefore wasn’t afraid.
What to do? I was so elated to experience this sweet connection with such a kindred spirit, but I nevertheless felt concerned for its safety. I moved toward the field, hoping it might follow me. As I stood waiting, I snapped a quick photo. Just at that moment, a car went by. I looked up, and the fox was gone.
Climbing back toward the road, I was greatly relieved to see it hadn’t been struck. But it was clear that the best thing I could do was leave, so that the fox would steer clear of the roadway.
I got back in my car, futzing for a few moments as I got ready to pull out. Suddenly, the fox appeared again, apparently still curious about the strange visitor. Then, just as soon as it appeared, another car whizzed by. The fox became flustered and darted out to cross the road. My heart lurched into my stomach. I can only thank the divine powers that it wasn’t hit.
As incredible as my encounter was, it was also deeply troubling. I felt that I had inadvertently endangered the life of a beautiful wild creature. Even though I had tried to keep a respectful distance, wild animals are unpredictable.
We, as humans, love to connect with animals in the wild. But they are just that – WILD, and our interference can come with negative and sometimes devastating consequences. Needless to say, this has given me some serious food for thought.
I continue to worry about the safety of my little friend. Even thought it wasn’t a very busy road, I still hope that he or she is able to cross back and forth safely, with many, many wild and free days ahead.
Shortly after getting back on the road, I saw a dragonfly ambling lazily over the pavement. I swerved to avoid it, but did not succeed. I looked in my rear-view mirror and saw its fallen delicate fairy-like body in the road. In that moment, I don’t think I could have felt worse.
Knowing me, I could spend a million hours thinking about the destructive force of humans on the natural world. It is something that I am painfully aware of, and loathe to be a part of despite my greatest efforts. But even as I have the deepest sadness welling up in me, I am eternally grateful for the preciousness of all living beings. All of life is fleeting, so I think the best that can be done is to appreciate its beauty as humbly, respectfully, and lovingly as we can.