Monday, September 22, 2014
THE SILVER FOX ON THEODORE ROOSEVELT ISLAND.
When I jog across the Potomac River I often kid myself that I jog across the Rio Roosevelt, the name bestowed upon a Brasilian tributary (formerly Rio da Dúvida) in salute to an expedition that included ‘Teodoro’ himself. I always cross the Potomac to run the myriad trails on Roosevelt Island, a small refuge that features a cracking statue of the former president. The island also features woods, brush, watery inlets, marsh, and swamp, a collection of microhabitats that harbors numerous creatures, many of whom venture forth in early mornings or shivery days after the tourists have vacated the region. In my forays, I have espied dozens of birds, including herons, kingfishers, eagles, owls, and hawks, but many more critters—squiggly lizards, water snakes, turtles, frogs, and deer—have cast a variety of glances in my direction. One time, a common red fox vanished into the brush as I jogged near, its bushy tail a distinguishing marker. A few months ago, I witnessed the same phenomenon: a bushy tail vanishing into the brush, only this one presented as blue-black with a white tip. I don’t know very much about animals, so I mused on the possibility that I’d observed some sort of rare beast. Not a raccoon, I knew, not a possum, not a badger, not a meerkat, not a mongoose, but research points toward a silver fox—a variation, apparently, of the red fox, but with different pigment to the fur. I wish I could get to know these foxes a little bit better. They’ve got moves, for starters, they’ve got some foxy moves. Alas, both foxes disappeared with such swiftness of paw, such sureness of cunning, such luxuriance of pelt, such radiance of improvisation. In the end, my greatest animal encounter on Roosevelt Island took place in the midst of Tropical Storm Andrea, which rained enormous sheets onto the various microhabitats of the national park in June 2013. My shirt pasted to my chest, my jogging boots squishy-wet, my cap unable to shield the water from my eyes, I might have missed the ordinary turtle that had gotten stuck in the mud, an element that might’ve otherwise lubricated the amphibian’s path to the swollen inlet. I plucked the turtle out of the mud with a “bloop” kind of suction noise, and held it, for a moment, near my face. Would you believe me if I said that it tried to kiss me?