Sunday, November 7, 2021

The Boulder and The Fox

About 10 years ago I was on a self imposed mission to fully explore this one big patch of woods about an hour away from my home here in Sweden. It began with looking for a good spot to pick wild mushrooms. The deeper I hiked looking for delicious shrooms, the more I fell in love with the area. So I bought a map of the area and just really got into trying to walk across and up and down and all over this chunk of woods. There were a few local hiking trails that went through it, but other than that and an occasional hunter during hunting season, these woods seemed like they were all mine. Like I had it all to myself, and for the most part, I did. I'd be all alone out there.

One of the tasks I gave myself while exploring was to hike around all of the lakes there, and this was one of the more challenging things on my checklist. I don't even know why I wanted to do it, I just did it. I wanted to see the water from every side. I wanted to soak up all the beauty this lovely little neck of woods had to offer. But it was work.
Often animal trails would help get me to and around these lakes. But a lot of them were dead ends. It makes sense I suppose, that animals just want to get to the lake for a drink and that's about it, then just turn around and go back into the woods. Yet other times I'd get lucky and find a faint trail that looped around the whole lake I was exploring.
I was not as lucky getting to the boulder. I spotted it across a large, oddly shaped lake that I was in the process of really getting familiar with. This lake was more like two big lakes that are joined by a narrow natural canal, and each of these two lake halves had an irregular shore lines. The edges of the lakes dip in and out and have various tiny peninsulas, but on one side of each of these lake halves there were cliffs. These cliffs made one part of the lake shore impassable. I had tried from both sides to get around one point, and unless I wanted to swim rather than hike, I'd have to find another way around this strange lake.
To make this lake even stranger was that I spotted a boulder sitting on the opposite, then unexplored part of the lake. It just rested there handsomely on a rocky shore of a small peninsula. No other rocks or stones could come close to its size, but because of where it was and its color, at first glace it blended in to the rest of the lake. But I spent enough time on the other end the lake gathering water or swimming or fishing to have noticed it and become intrigued by it.
I had even found a small cave on that side of the lake and made camp in there a few times, and I got used to seeing the boulder there waiting for me across the water come rain or shine. I had enough one day and finally decided to pay the boulder a visit. One side (to the right of the cave) was impassable, so my only option was to hike the other way (to the left of the cave). It was a very pretty hike at first, passing under some cliffs on mossy ground with a nice view of the lake. But then the lake turned into a bog at one end, and past that was bushwhacking and the inevitable pokey, scratchy branches and brush that comes with it.
But plowing my way through the thick woods with a glint of sun reflecting off of the lake on one side, I finally found myself on the rocky shore of the boulder. And a few hops on smaller stones in the shallow water of this shore and I was able to grab a hold of the boulder and climb on top of it. I didn't even bother to stop and take a good look at it from the other side. I'd seen it enough before, and now there I was sat on top of the boulder. It was about the size of moving van or so, and was flat enough on top to sit comfortably.
I looked out across the lake to the cliffs on the other side that I was familiar with. While luck was not with me with any good animal trails that went to the boulder's shore, luck was with me with the weather that day. I sat there for a good long while just watching the wind blow through the trees on the other side of the lake, and the water ripple, and the occasional fish leap out of the water. It was early fall, but the leaves had not changed just yet, but it had started to feel just a bit cooler in the air.
It was one of those moments when time stood still, and this was easily one of the most peaceful moments of my entire life. This peace suddenly ended when something caught my eye moving on the trail from the other end of the lake. That's when I saw the fox, and peace became awe. 
It was a gray-brown (but mostly grey) fox and trotted carefully, silently, yet majestically down the trail towards the cave. But then it slowed down and walked towards the water to drink. After drinking it stood for just a few moments there on the shore. This part of the lake was only about 100 meters wide, and later on I even went back and measured the width of the lake just to be sure. So I could really get a good look at this fox, especially from on top of the boulder. I held my breath, and sat as still as I could.
Was it reflecting on something? Thinking? Daydreaming? Can foxes daydream? I watched it with the intent that I have watched few other things in my life. And then after maybe a dozen heartbeats, with the same grace as it had before, the fox trotted back on the trail for a short stretch before disappearing with the wind back into the woods.
I've seen the Grand Canyon several times. I've even been to Machu Picchu once. And both of those places deeply moved me. But for some reason, I think about the boulder and the fox more often than either of them. And I think I was equally as moved for those brief moments there, sitting on an ordinary big rock, watching a random wild animal.