Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Between two worlds

I walked home from work last night just as it was getting dark. Nightfall had tinted the clouds violet and grey, even pink in places. It was that time when the daylight world and the night-time world overlap. I walked briskly through town, there was a light breeze and I was in the kind of mood where it felt like almost anything could happen, the world was full of unexpected possibilities. My path wound between houses and entered a strip of woodland that runs along the back of a small group of industrial units. I often walk along here but usually in the middle of the day when the wood is filled with birdsong, the path with dog walkers and lunch break factory workers. It was quiet now, except for the odd cricket-chirp and leaf fluttering down. A movement against the sky between the tree canopy caught my eye and I stopped and watched. It was a bat, a large silhouetted bat swoping along the path, following the overhanging trees like a corridor. It flew and twisted past too and fro over my head, fantastically close. As I stood there smiling at this glimpse of a night-time creature, I became aware of another movement futher along the path. In a patch of light filtering between the trees a fox was trotting along the path towards me. She was a beautiful individual, white front and tail tip, ginger fur and neatly black painted ears and legs. She was trotting along the path, mouth half open, alert and wary but confident in her environment. I was aware of the bat flitting past close to my ear, but stayed still, trying hard not to move a muscle I almost held my breath as I watched her, waiting to see how close she would get. I think she couldn't see me, I was in deep shadow, wearing dark clothing, and standing as still as a statue, but she seemed to sense my presence and kept stopping every few steps, ears moving back and forth, trying to piece together the information her acute senses were relaying her from all around. There was a noise in the distance, I think it may have been another fox barking, and she seemed interested although unsure. She trotted closer towards me, stopping to mark her territory each side of the path and then stopping again to listen. She was only 3 or 4 metres ahead of me now and seemed to know that something wasn't quite right, that there was a possible danger ahead of her that she couldn't quite make out. Her ears rotated forwards, in the direction of the distant barking, she looked back at me and looked away over her shoulder and back towards me again. She must have caught a whiff of human scent then as she turn round and retraced her steps back down the path and out of sight. I breathed properly again and turned to look for the bat. It too had gone; melted into the darkness.
Foxes are not every persons favourite, both loved and loathed by many for their own reasons, but nobody could deny the magic of a moment like that, when two worlds come so close and you realise how we live side by side but live such different lives. Like an old fashioned fairytale when the veil between worlds is lifted for a magical moment allowing a brief glimpse into a fairyland, and when you return to reality you wonder if it happened or was just a dream. My fox moment wasn't quite an encounter with a enchanting fairy but I will still pause whenever I walk that path at dusk, hold my breath and remember my glimpse into the world of the wild night.

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