Gustave Courbet, The Fox in the Snow (1860), Oil on canvas, 33 3/4 x 50 5/16 in., Dallas Museum of Art.
A little girl in our neighborhood, who is known for telling tall tales, has been talking for a while now about seeing a fox “as big as a pony.” Nobody believed her. I didn’t. We live in a city and I haven’t seen anything more exotic than a squirrel and none of those since winter set in. She probably saw a dog or a cat or just made it up.
After a very long day, full of stress and aggravation, it began to snow . . . and snow . . . and snow. My car had broken down on a busy road and I called Triple-A. It had to be towed to a garage to be repaired. I got a ride from a friend, went to my office, and buried myself in paperwork before finally calling it quits. I was walking home from work late, in the dark, in the snow. It was coming down in cotton ball sized clumps and coating everything in a foamy layer of white. At least it looked white under the streetlights. The snow turned blue in the shadows. As I neared the front steps of our house I turned and looked out into the field across the street to admire the beauty of this winter wonderland. That’s when I saw him.
At first I thought it was a dog in the field but it didn’t move like a dog. It pranced and cavorted like . . . well, like foxes do. But if this was a fox, it was big one. Really big. Okay, maybe not big as a pony, but one of the biggest foxes I’d ever seen. Then it came toward me and stopped 20 feet in front of me and just stood there, jut beyond the lamplight, looking straight at me.
I dropped my briefcase and ran inside shouting for my family, “Come outside! Come outside now! You gotta see this fox!” I went back outside and saw him walking away, right down middle of the street in front of our house. “Come on!” I yelled over my shoulder. He was almost out of sight now.
My youngest daughter Maddy tiptoed out the front door in her socks, pulling a coat over her shoulders. She looked at me quizzically. “It’s the fox!” I exclaimed, a little too excited. “I saw him! He was big, really big! And pranced around in the snow, then stopped right there!” I said, pointing. She raised her eyebrows. “He went down the street.” I pointed again. She looked. Nothing. Maddy turned and tiptoed back inside.
I told the story to each of my children and then to my wife. They all nodded and smiled. I couldn’t tell whether they didn’t believe me or just didn’t care. I went outside again to see if I could catch another glimpse of the sly visitor, but even his tracks had disappeared in the falling snow.
As I stood there on the front porch, a Bible verse came to my mind: “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” (John 20:29).