The scent of foxes

This post was occasioned by two news items this week: 


the rescue of a king pigeon in a park in New York. It had been dyed pink and it is believed that it was used as a prop in a ‘gender reveal’ party where the gender of an unborn is revealed to family and friends;


The pigeon is emaciated and intoxicated with the poison of the dye.   It is hoped that, after washing and washing, the feathers will grow back.


A near-killing to mark an impending birth?




from the net on Feburary 1, 2023




The second is a documentary made by the Indian, Shaunak Sen and due for release imminently: All That Breathes, 2022.


It is about two siblings, Mohammad Saud and Nadeem Shehzad, who, in the last 15 years, have saved the lives of upwards of 25,000 kites and other raptors who fell to the ground, poisoned by the polluted skies of New Delhi,


The young men did this of their own compulsion, used an abandoned industrial basement as a hospital; and were not schooled for this work.

Heading for Oscars.


One of the siblings said:  “Life itself is kinship.

“One shouldn’t differentiate between all that breathes.”




a still from the documentary, All That Breathes, from the net





Martin Shaw, British born scholar of myth, an adept of wilderness, and a story teller, tells this story on his website.

John Moriarty, 1938-2007, the Irish mystic and writer, also told this story.






Once upon a time there was a lonely hunter.




Karl’s Room, 1954, watercolour on paper. 

Andrew Wyeth, 1917-2009, American. Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas.




One evening, returning to his hut over the snow, he saw smoke coming from his chimney. When he entered the shack, he found a warm fire, a hot meal on the table, and his threadbare clothes washed and dried. There was no one to be found.


The next day, he doubled back early from hunting. Sure enough, there was again smoke from the chimney, and he caught the scent of cooking.




The Silver Tureen, c. 1728, oil on canvas.

Jean Siméon Chardin, 1699-1779, French.  Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY




When he cautiously opened the door, he found a fox pelt hanging from a peg,



Red Macra, 1970, sisal and cotton. 

Aurelia Munoz, 1926-2011, Spanish.  MOMA, NY



and a woman with long red hair and green eyes adding herbs to a pot of meat.




This painting has two names:  The Woman with Red Hair and Green Eyes, and Sin, 1902, lithograph printed in yellow, red and green. 

Edvard Munch, 1863-1944, Norwegian, MOMA, NY



He knew in the way that hunters know that she was fox-woman-dreaming, that she had walked clean out of the Otherworld.


“I am going to be the woman of this house,”‘ she told him.




Big Mama and the Boys, oil. 

Rochelle Marcus Dinkin, no other information given.  On display at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 2021.




The hunter’s life changed.


There was laughter in the hut, someone to share in the labour of crafting a life,



Groundhog Day, 1959; tempera on panel. 

Andrew Wyeth, American, 1919-2007. Philadelphia Museum of Art




and, in the warm dark when they made love, it seemed the edges of the hut dissolved in the vast green acres of the forest and the stars.




The Tarantula Nebula, 2003, oil on canvas.

Martha Mayer Erlebacher, 1937-2013, American.  On display at Woodmere Museum of Art, Philadelphia in 2017




Over time, the pelt started to give off its wild, pungent scent.


A small price, you would think, but the hunter started to complain. The hunter could detect it on his pillow,




Impressions, 2008, marble. 

Sebastian Martorana, American born 1981.  Smithsonian Renwick Gallery, Washington, DC



his clothes, even on his own skin.



His complaints grew in number until one night the woman nodded, just once, her eyes glittering. 


In the morning, she and the pelt, and the scent were gone.



The Getaway, 1939, oil on canvas. 

Horace Pippin, 1888-1946, American.  Philadelphia Art Museum




It is said that to this day the hunter waits by the door of his hut, gazing over snow, longing for the fox woman.




Painted Post Study, 1983; tempera on panel.  

Andrew Wyeth, 1917-2009, American.  Collection of the Wyeth Foundation for American Art on exhibit at the Brandywine River Museum in 2022.




Martin Shaw’s commentary:


I would suggest that we are that hunter, societally and most likely personally.


The smell of the pelt is the price of real relationship to wild nature; its sharp, regal, undomesticated scent. While that scent is in our hut there can be no Hadrian’s wall between us and the living world.


Somewhere back down the line, the West woke up to the fox woman gone.


And when she left she took many stories with her.


And, when the day is dimming, and our great successes have been bragged to exhaustion,




The NASA Space Launch System carrying the uncrewed Orion spacecraft lifting off at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida on November 16, 2022. 

It returned to the Pacific Ocean in mid-December and is the first of 3 Artemis projects destined to send humans to the moon and Mars.


the West sits, lonely in its whole body for her.




A fox, Gibraltar, Wilmington, Delaware, summer 2022




Stories that are more than just a dagger between our teeth.

More than just a bellow of conquest.

As I say, we have lost a lot of housemaking skills for how to welcome such stories.

We turned our face away from the pelt.

Underneath our wealth, the West is a lonely hunter.










One thought on “The scent of foxes

  1. Beautiful sensitivity, sensibility in the telling and the gathering of images. Thank you, Sarah.

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