It is August and while Aldo Leopold turns his thoughts toward one of nature’s more temperamental artists, I reflect back on the August in which I was fortunate enough to have an encounter with a young fox.
“Like other artists, my river is temperamental,” Leopold writes. “There is no predicting when the mood to paint will come upon him, or how long it will last.”
He continues shortly, “The work begins with a broad ribbon of silt brushed thinly on the sand of a receding shore. As this dries slowly in the sun, goldfinches bathe in its pools, and deer, heron, kill-deers, raccoons, and turtles cover it with a lacework of tracks. There is no telling at this stage if anything else will happen.
“But when I see the Eleocharis [note: of which there are 250 varieties so no photo as Leopold isn’t specific], I watch closely thereafter, for this is the sign that the river is in a painting mood.”
While at Bonaventure Cemetery early one morning, working on a new photo project, I was peering through the infrared camera when I noticed an animal behind the statue I was photographing.
It took me a moment to register that it was a fox. She scooted away before I could take a photo, but was curious enough to return–tasting the coffee in Frank’s mug, sniffing my hand, relaxing in the grass, posing for photos, until she got bored and disappeared into a giant sago palm.
I went back to work, and a few minutes later she reappeared with an enormous lizard clenched in her jaws. She displayed it proudly before trotting off to enjoy her breakfast. It was an encounter I will never forget.
Back to the river–three weeks later:
“The artist has now laid its colors,” Leopold writes, “and sprayed them with dew. The Eleocharis sod, greener than ever, is now spangled with blue mimulus, pink dragon-head, and the milk-white blooms of Sagittaria. Here and there a cardinal flower thrusts a red spear skyward. At the head of the bar, purple ironweeds and pale pink joe-pyes stand tall against the wall of willows.”
Leopold warns us not to return for a second viewing as in all likelihood the colorful painting will have disappeared, having either been dried out from falling water or scoured away by rising water.