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Wednesday, 19 December 2012

The hare and the fox

20th December 2012.

Today, I saw a mountain hare.  He was magnificent, dressed in his winter finery, he surveyed his iced kingdom before bounding off in search of his snow hole. I’d set off in darkness to ascend a Munro, which is the classification of a Scottish mountain some three thousand feet in height. I found a welcome plateau and partook of hot chocolate from a flask. Something pricked my attention and peering through a fine coating of snow, I locked eyes with a mountain hare, camouflaged against predators, we shared a moment in time that cannot be explained by mere words. Perhaps he was communicating a warning from the past or a message from the future? Whatever his intent, the hare seemed at peace, unconcerned by this human’s interest. Soon, a cloud of snow blanketed his slender form and he vanished.  

I continued my descent and within a few hours, had returned to Log Cabin, my countenance cheered by an orange sunrise on the long drive home, black striped clouds pierced by a watery cobalt sky. 

I was re-acquainted this evening by my dear friend, Jasper and we shared a warming glass of Glühwein. He is a self styled man of the woods, who lives in a mountain bothy which overlooks a Scottish loch.  He looked quite incongruous amongst festive revellers carrying their Christmas packages and rolls of gaudy paper, bustling past to catch the seven forty five express. We embraced and I burrowed into the folds of his forest green cloak inhaling pine scent, and noticed an amulet over his left breast, it depicted an oak tree bejellewed with tiny green stones. Employed as a tree surgeon, tending the ancient forest of Scotland, his hands spoke of manual labour. Jasper lives a little way from a holiday camp, which is a fifty acre site, man made in construct with flush toilets and sub post office, Although tourists are encouraged not to feed the wild animals, occasionally spotted foraging around its environs – one particular fox was befriended by a tourist who fed it meat pies. It is unknown how the relationship developed. Jasper is led to believe that the lady invited the fox into her cabin and was delighted by its presence that she encouraged it to return. Regrettably, the frequent visits were reported by alarmed residents, the fox was trapped and its life terminated by a local veterinarian.

Jasper was delighted to hear that my novel is now at the print stage, and I promised him a preview copy.  He was excited about the prospect of a Highland book launch, and explained that he was keen to convert his own portfolio of animal drawings into a printed publication.

A bowl of barley broth was a fitting finale to the evening and prepared Jasper for the long journey home to the north.

 It was such a clear night, that I walked through the forest without the need of a torch, my steps punctuated by a barn owl's shriek, its heart shaped features illuminated by the silvered moon.  My meditative footsteps aided a drifting mind and I returned to my earlier encounter with the mountain hare and wondered about the certainty of his future. 

Later, I placed a log on the grate and watched flames rise. Settling into my winged arm chair, I tucked a cashmere shawl around my toes, smiling at Jasper’s Christmas gift of socks fashioned from finest sheep wool. His story of the fox resonated and I wondered how far humankind has really evolved, whereby an undomesticated animal must suffer a fatal consequence by accepting a food offering in winter from an Earth Mother, however misguided she might have been in the eyes of some.  Surely, we humans evolved from  woodland and once lived there in close kinship with what are now considered strangers who must not be trusted, otherwise they will revert to their brutal and wild nature.  How can this split be healed? Isn’t it simply an example of
survivalism for the fox to prefer an offering than to expend energy in hunting for food?

Pantheists believe that the Universe (nature) is at one with God. Spinoza, a devotee held that the mind, body and soul is deeply connected and no duality exists, this would imply that the lady and the fox are one and the same and perhaps she felt a deep calling from her well of human kindness to befriend the fox and in feeding it, she was nurturing her soul. Were either party aware of the danger, their short lived kinship would cause in twenty first century Scotland?  Roll back the years, and I hold that the controllers of 1600’s Scotland would have treated this alliance in no greater harmony of spirit.

I watched a candle flicker and must have dozed off, in the warmth of the night, for I woke with a start and felt the chill on my shoulders.I’d been dreaming about a traveller walking a forest trail, it seemed an interminable journey of hardship and toil and waiting for him at the end of the path, was an arctic fox, its coat silvered as though coated with time and wisdom. The man reached out and the fox walked towards him.The dream faded and consciousness became my reality.  I guess that Merlin had also sought warmth, for I found him snuggled into the blanket, we’d somehow shared. I looked down at the sleeping feline form.

“Oh Merlin, humankind has so much to learn, we have gained so much and lost even more – we must never be distracted, for it’s the children who will inherit this land and they must learn of the old wisdom before it’s too late.”

At that moment, Merlin yawned and gazed up at me through glacier eyes. I rose from the chair and watched him settle into the hollow I’d made.

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