6th February


There is life in the margins of all our lives – life moving in light and shadow. And sometimes it grants us a view – the blackbird taking a bath, the toad in the herb garden, owl calling to owl in the moonlit trees of the park, the mouse scurrying for cover.

But what is it, that life? Why should it bring such glad beatings of the heart, such tears to our eyes? What can those creatures possibly have that stirs our love, our envy, our grief?

Imagine this: on the phone one night, a woman in a block of flats in the middle of a city, talking to one friend about another who was found dead only that morning. He has gone out of the world far too early, this man, and in circumstances unnecessarily sad and painful. As she is speaking, the woman looks out of her kitchen window, down into the parking area in front of the building. A hedge borders the car park, and between the hedge and the building is a shared garden, composed of a lawn and some flower- beds. Suddenly she sees, running along behind the hedge, a big, healthy-looking fox. It crosses the lawn, slips between two cars, trots across the car park illuminated by streetlight, and gracefully leaps over a fence into the darkness.

Nothing special about that, you might say: there are urban foxes everywhere. But the woman has only ever seen a fox here once before, months earlier, and on that occasion she was also on the phone, speaking about another friend who had died that day. And because of this coincidence – which is in all probability no more than that, a coincidence – she cannot help but tell her friend on the phone what has happened, and ask aloud, but also into herself, what the significance of seeing the fox might be. What can it possibly mean?

Maybe just that: possibility. To be the fox in the streetlight, the owl in the moonlight. To be the toad beneath the sage bush, the mouse running for its life. Nothing else. To be the blackbird, most beautiful of singers, and not know of what or why we are singing.

Reader: Marianne Mitchelson
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
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