In the dark, a baby fox hoists her short legs one by trembling one up the steep stairs, tripping the sensor light as she reaches the back deck in a sharp-eyed heap of gray brown fur.
She toddles, adorably unsteady, across the width of composite boards, circles metal table and chairs, small nose searching the damp surfaces. Finding nothing, the little one makes her way back to the top step, looks down doubtfully. How to navigate this? Up was a grand adventure, fueled by curiosity and hunger. Up was electric, ears cocked forward, no room for fear. Up was easier.
Oh, little visitor, I wish I could slip from my human skin and morph through the kitchen window, soft-bark a soothing scent around your brindled fur. Note to self: Why do I want to mother everything?
My midnight eyes cast a shadowy path from your small form to that soft landing at the base of the steps. I know you can do it! One paw at a time, and your weight will shift nicely forward and side to side. You’ll learn to trust your body mechanics in time. You are, after all, designed so perfectly to be and do all things fox.
When you reach the damp grassy ground, you’ll follow the scent back to safety, to the den your parents dug beneath the backyard shed.
Your family is known here. The mild skunky scent, not unpleasant, tipped me off first. Then one night my love called me excitedly into the garage, gestured out the window. There you were, with two of your siblings, tumbling and frolicking like puppies in the dim moonlight next to the shed. We were—are—enchanted.
I hope you’ll visit again, though I know I’m not supposed to invite such proximity. Your energy feels like hope and innocence and possibility, all of which have seemed in short supply these past few years.