Article and photos by Joe Mish
A red fox magically appears against the sky, just before she disappears again. Moments before, she ran along the vertical river bank, almost slipping into the cold swift water as she lured me away from her den.
A dear friend has been visited by March ninety-three times, a grandson but once.
It may seem odd to think in terms of a month representing years, if it was time that was being measured.
Conventional wisdom demands we use the larger numeric value of years to keep the scale of time manageable over the span of someone’s life. When viewed from that perspective, the months go spinning past like a second hand on a clock, imparting no useful information.
Looking at the cyclic occurrence, over time, of a single month like March, allows a comparison of the differences buried within the idealized image assigned to the month. It also considers the impact of having repeatedly experienced the end of winter, the beginning of spring and the instant day and night co-exist in perfect balance.
Like a long running play where the script remains unchanged, the audience still walks away each night with a new impression as cast members and lead actors are substituted.
So it is with each performance of March, where the associated cosmic events that mark the vernal equinox are the only constants in a script dominated by improvisation.
March reveals over time, that despite the vagaries of weather, fair or foul, bright or dark, warm or cold, spring is near and new life a guarantee.
March is a lesson in equanimity where a balanced view is maintained while experiencing the ebb and flow of hope, disappointment and turmoil in the guise of inconsistent weather. The moment where night and day reach equality is a perfect lesson which teaches us to hold all that happens around us in perspective.
Sage wisdom, spoken by philosophers over the centuries, always appears as novel, insightful and imaginative as it is introduced the first time to new generations.
The language and cultural nuance supporting the wisdom is the glue to make the words stick. Inconsistent weather is the adhesive March uses to drive home the importance of maintaining balance and perspective when riding an emotional roller coaster.
Over the years I have lost touch with March by relying solely on its wild and varied menu of weather. Nature, however, has seen more visits from March than any living human and so pays little heed to the wild ranting and hysteria of a month hosting the emergence of spring from the coma of winter. Nature keeps its balance to focus on new life and all that it entails.
One March is indelibly etched in my mind by an encounter with a red fox running along the river bank while I was canoeing.
The fox would watch my approach, let me get quite close and then disappear over the steep bank to reappear further downstream, as if waiting for me to catch up.
When the fox would go over the top of the bank and out of sight, I would paddle as fast as I could to close the distance in anticipation of its next appearance. This game went on for at least a mile. Typically in any other season such an encounter would be a one time occurrence with the fox disappearing, never to be seen again. This was odd behavior I attributed to the fox leading me away from its den.
Twice I was able to get ahead of the fox before it reappeared in full view, focusing its attention upstream where it expected me to be.
Despite the fast action of trying to control a canoe in the swift current within intimate distance of a magical disappearing fox, I was able to keep my balance and record the event with a series of images. This was March’s way of imparting its lesson of balance using nature instead of weather to cement its lesson into my memory.
One March, taken each day for 31 days, once a year, will improve your condition whether it is repeated nine-three time or just once. But who is counting?
The sly red fox does its best to divert me from its den hidden somewhere nearby the banks of the river. The steep bank caused the fox to slip and almost fall into the swift water. In another image, the fox runs across an exposed shoal right between a disbelieving great blue heron and a pair of mallards surely wondering at this fox’s odd behavior. The fox then hightails it over a shallow dip in the riverbank to finally give us its diversion.
Author Joe Mish has been running wild in New Jersey since childhood when he found ways to escape his mother’s watchful eyes. He continues to trek the swamps, rivers and thickets seeking to share, with the residents and visitors, all of the state’s natural beauty hidden within full view. To read more of his writing and view more of his gorgeous photographs visit Winter Bear Rising, his wordpress blog. Joe’s series “Nature on the Raritan, Hidden in Plain View” runs monthly as part of the LRWP “Voices of the Watershed” series. Writing and photos used with permission from the author.