On the way south and east toward Keuka Lake on a sunny spring day, the kind that is like an open door after the long dank winter, I drive with my windows open and the music loud. These country roads wind and roll, through forest and then open out onto a 10-mile view. I drive swiftly, taking care not to cause a line-up behind me. I don’t want to be that woman on the road.
On the graveled shoulder of the road, along a stretch that is straight and wide open with fields on one side and a vineyard on the other, I see it. The destroyed body of a young red fox. Red foxes aren’t born red and this one isn’t old enough to have turned; its coat is sandy brown. Their very attentive parents don’t allow them to leave the den until they are a couple of months old, at least. I wonder what happened here.
I am ashamed to admit that I didn’t stop. I should have. That little body has haunted me since.
The spark of God’s ever-creating, ever-loving grace enlivens all creatures, but for me it is particularly apparent in the red fox. Maybe it is their beautiful, glowing fur. Or the way they leap up to pounce on prey I can’t even see. They are devoted parents and mate for life. There is a playfulness in the red fox that denotes intelligence, even wit.
I should have stopped to honor the death of that young fox.
The late Barry Lopez, one of my favorite writers, wrote a small book about his response to roadkill. He did not name it a spiritual response, but I do. His ritual was as follows; stop the car and with tenderness, lift the body of the fallen creature and carry it from the roadside, pause to offer words of apology which he calls “ a mark of respect” and a “technique of awareness.”
A simple ritual to slow down our hurrying, to connect us to the wonder of God in all things, and to mark the harm done. We have a responsibility in this world to love what God loves; each and every part of creation. To love God in all God’s images; tree, hill, woman, man, red fox.
I missed my opportunity so instead I offer this prayer of lamentation. For the life lost. For my part in the hurrying human world. For all the things that damage my relationship with God in and beyond and through creation.
O Source of Life, Creator of All Things
Listen to the cry of my heart
For I know you share my sorrow.
How long will we turn from You?
Blind to Your presence in the world
Blind to gifts You have given,
Coiled within our own selfish pursuits.
Deliver me from my hurry and my fear, my Beloved
They keep me from seeing
Your Divinity in the life around me.
Reawaken my child’s spirit
That I might be struck with wonder
Open my eyes to see You in all things.
Sweeten my heart so I might love the world as you do.
Forgive me, My God,
For the ways I have failed to see and to love
And bless my tears.
That they might help me to live
As one with all Your wondrous creation.