I was up all night. This is not unusual.
I am curled up, reading The Sandman (again), and eating a lime popsicle. After awhile I become aware of a sound that’s been going on for awhile. A rumbling, engine noise, like a plane…what? Hovering over my house? Then I realize it’s the sound of combines and tractors, my farmer neighbors bringing in the harvest.
Around 3 am, the sounds fade.
As it starts to get light out, Barnabas (aka B-dog) nudges me and does a little dance. I throw on my cloak, which smells like woodsmoke and horse, and head out to the deck to take a look at the morning.
The world is muted, earth-toned with dawn. Mist covers the pasture. The trees are changing into their autumn gear; now and then there is the soft crackle of a leaf drifting down to join its brethren on the ground. A breeze ruffles by and it sounds like Rice Krispies everywhere. One of the horses sticks her head over the fence and huffs in my general direction. Breakfast is on everyone’s mind.
B trots down the stairs, does his dog stuff and trots back up to me.
I lean on the rail and look out over my land. The pasture grass is getting shaggy and pale. A rabbit lopes across the field in static bursts: leap leap freeze, leap leap freeze. The pines are lean shadows. I can see into the barn through the huge sliding door. In a month it will be shut. In two months it will be frozen shut and we will have to use the small people-door that is ignored all summer. Sabbath’s head appears out of the tiny cat-portal set into the tack room door, then vanishes. The flap slaps shut, and Barnabas looks toward the noise. I don’t blame Sabbath. The tack room is heated. The outside is not.
Barnabas & I stand side by side. He presses against my leg, his tail rhythmically whaps-whaps-whaps me. I lean down and stroke his fuzzy head. He is looking out over the firepit towards the woods, and goes rigid at the distant noise of the wild turkey – I don’t know what to call it— flock? Posse? There are so many of them this year that it’s more like a Turkey Apocalypse. I remind B about the house policy of staying in the yard. He whines, and relaxes.
That’s when I see the fox and vixen. They are frozen, staring at me from the driveway in front of the barn. He is a bold, gleaming red with a bright white tip to his tail. She is a quiet brown that blends into the fallen leaves surrounding them. They do not move. We look at each other for a long moment, then B gives his squeaky bark and I turn. He’s still focused the other way, towards the possibility of turkey invasion. When I look back at the driveway, the foxes are gone.
The turkeys are closer now, I can hear them muttering and gargling back in the woods. It always makes me laugh. B-dog can’t take it anymore and dashes off, barking shrilly. I call him back when he reaches the fence-line. He returns, puffed up with indignation or satisfaction. I dig in my pocket for a treat, then we go inside.
I turn and look out the porch door as I close it. The light is rising, bringing fire into autumn. There is nothing muted about the woods now: the trees blaze golden, red and bright. Everything has gone silent. Barnabas & I left smudgy inter-species footprints in the dew on the deck: compact paws and curved human commas blur together. I realize that although I’m wearing my long woolen cloak, I am barefoot and freezing.
I look out towards the driveway and pasture, hoping for another glimpse of the foxes. There’s nothing there but the trees.