Thursday, February 26

Redux: Seeing foxes

I'd like to introduce you all to a very good friend of mine, Austin Church. I haven't been in touch with Austin very regularly since we graduated from college, but through the interwebs and our shared love of writing, poetry, life, whatever, we've reconnected. Austin recently started his own blog, Austin L. Church's blog (catchy, ain't it?), which I'm very pleased to announce.

Austin and I used to sit next to each other in senior English courses writing poems back and forth on the fly, comparing drafts of our other more serious poems instead of listening to the lecture, pausing to participate in class at appropriate intervals. He is one of several good friends who went to Oxford, Mississippi, with me. I believe he's the one who dubbed me Erin Etheridge, Award-Winning Poet. We stopped at William Faulkner's house on that trip, where I stole a peach pit from the tree in Faulkner's backyard and tried to grow a tree in a planter on the porch of my apartment. It didn't work.

Here's a snippet from one of Austin's recent posts, "Seeing foxes":
I parked my truck and followed on foot. The fox looked at me like a cat: “What do you want, you bumbling oaf? I know all your secrets.” Then, it walked off without any sign of alarm. He looked back a few times out of curiosity. He was definitely a he. I didn’t see any tell-tale signs, but I knew. He turned around and stared at me through some fence slats: “Okay, okay, I see you. What do you want?” He finally disappeared through some Bradford Pear trees and a wall of honeysuckle behind a building. Oh, I remember now why he was a he. He lifted up his leg to pee. He didn’t seem to care who was watching. I think I know people like that. I was on a football team with about sixty of them. ...

It wasn’t until I was writing the abstract for my Master’s thesis that I fully understood why foxes hold such significance for me. Yes, they’re mysterious creatures. They provide an apt metaphor for Ted Hughes’s poem, “The Thought-Fox.” Foxes are elusive and sudden like inspiration. “The sharp, hot stink of fox”–what a wonderfully gritty phrase. I love Roald Dahl’s stories. He wrote one called The Fantastic Mr. Fox. I think Mr. Fox was after the hens. Aren’t we all. But sitting down with a sigh to try to summarize my collection of poems in 200 words or less or whatever the count was, I realized that a fox sighting was similar in ways to encounters with the Divine. God shows up in unexpected places. If you blink, you will miss Him. You have to be paying attention, which takes practice. Brother Lawrence wrote a book called Practicing the Presence of God. Apparently, he learned to immerse himself in God’s reality while washing dishes. Jesus promised to be with us to the end of the age. God promises never to forsake us. I’ve wasted a lot of time crying and asking God where he is. I often forget that I already know where He is. His Spirit dwells inside of me. I have to practice planting myself in that truth so that by God’s grace I can live in light of it.

Keeping watch–vigilance–requires discipline. You might say that seeing God, and seeing foxes, is a lot like hitting a fastball. You have to train your spiritual eye. Some of us will never learn how to hit a fastball, so here’s the good news: if we seek, we will find. If we watch, we will see.

However, lest someone accidentally read this and misunderstand, I’m not saying seeing is believing. Faith hurts. Faith is hard. I don’t have all or even most of the answers, but when I die, I would like for people to say that I walked with a limp and took the name, “Israel,” because I wrestled with angels and cried out, “I will not let you go until you bless me.”

Fantastic, no? Austin wrote about some of his foxes yesterday; click here to read.

So. I would like to take a page from Austin's hypercodex and start seeing some foxes myself. Stay tuned.


Unknown said...

I may have spotted a fox-ish animal for you today . . . in fact it was a semi-traumatic event as I almost hit it as it decided to cross Peter's Creek Pkwy all the way down by Academy St!

Anonymous said...

Erin, thank you for your kind words. We should all descend on Steve Prewitt and make his life hell by stealing his hardback volumes of Yeats and collection of teas.

I'm glad we've reconnected. Tell Noah I said hello. Perhaps we will see one another sooner rather than later and both have foxes to write about...

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