It’s the Little Things in Life

We are marvelous creatures of habit.  Setting a routine can be comforting, especially for those used to chaos and havoc.  Part of my routine has been seeing several furry friends each evening after leaving work.  Like the time I rise in the morning and the hours I work, my animal friends are part of my routine.  And like the geek that I am, I named them.

I blame my oversensitivity to non-squirrel rodents and other woodland creatures on Beatrix Potter.

As my car creeps around the curving border of college property, I am accustomed to seeing first a very large groundhog.  I had named him Murray.  And he reminded me of Mr. Beaver from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe–affable, practical, and fond of a good meal.  Next is a rabbit, who as yet had no name, though Priscilla is a nice one.  She and Murray seemed very friendly neighbors.  And then, on the small hill joining the main road with the college campus, was Groundhog No. 2–otherwise known as Fillmore, the intrepid explorer.  Nothing deters Fillmore and his boundless energy.  Whoever promoted the idea that groundhogs are dull creatures useful only on February 2 never met Fillmore.  From the stop sign, I could watch him running over his hill or try to cross the street.  Only a near brush with a Jeep sent him back to the safety of his hillside.

I have loved watching these animals over the past few months.  But two weeks ago, I arrived at work to see a large groundhog stiff on the roadside.  Since that time, I had seen neither groundhog nor rabbit anywhere at all on my drive home.  They were just animals.  And they were more than a part of my routine.  They were a small glimpse into the wondrous natural world I miss while sitting in a windowless room telling students “No, you may not cheat on this test.”  The thin layer of woods I travel through hardly seems sufficient to shelter many birds, much less the groundhog and rabbit families I saw.  Yet, emerging from the woody veil at dawn and dusk, they reminded me to always be watching for everyday surprises.

So tonight, as I took the curved road, I kept one eye on the road and the other on the grass just beyond my headlights.  No groundhog.  No rabbit.  But as I rounded the last curve, two green lamps reflected the low-beams of my car.   Against the darkness were outlined two pointy ears, a sleek body, and a bushy tail.  The fox looked at me for only a moment before disappearing into the brush with a flick of his grey tail.  It made my night, although I hardly think he will stay long in our woods.  At that moment, I felt wonder at the sight of a wild creature, composed and hesitating in the night to investigate the low-beams of a Toyota Scion.

I think I’ll name the fox Gosford.

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