by Catherine Raven
This is a very unique book. Indeed Catherine Raven is a very unique individual. Here she tells a lot about herself by documenting her two-year-relationship with a fox that lives on her property in Montana. Raven lives alone in a cottage on a remote plot of arid land; she’s obtained a degree or two, served as a park ranger, and taught college, but doesn’t know what to do next with her life. When a fox starts visiting her at her cottage, she starts reading to him; she names him “Fox”, and rendezvous with him regularly at the same time and place.
When I say she lives alone, I mean without others of her species. Her other friend is a magpie. As I said, Raven is a unique individual. I admired and envied her closeness to the land she chose to call home. I grew to love Fox as she did. I love how she tells us her life situation without self-pity and with directness, and I love the conclusions she came to over the course of the two years she knew Fox. While at times this book felt a little repetitive and confusing, given the poetic way Raven would skip back in time sometimes to retell a scene in a different way, I would not say I was ever bored.
The central question for Raven was: was she “anthropomorphizing” Fox, and was she within her rights to say that he was her friend? If she had tamed him, or if he had been a domesticated animal, nobody would laugh at her attributing humanoid characteristics to him, or naming him, or saying he was her friend. Why is it different with a wild fox?
“I tried lashing myself to the land, but it wasn’t reciprocating.”
“The American student sits long enough to rival the most sessile organism ever to evolve on planet Earth.”
“Each [elk] cow was searching for her perfect partner, and despite years of research, no scientist has ever been able to discover the criteria that females use when choosing mates. Maybe it’s because each cow chose for herself alone, the one bull that would most displease her mother.”
“On days when I worried over a pile of applications for university jobs that I didn’t want but should have been applying for anyway, I remembered I owned land in a high-altitude desert where tiny five-headed ball cactuses bloomed in the shadow of snow-capped mountains, and I stopped worrying.” I would too.