Cheryl Tucker lives in a quietish town outside of Cambridge, Mass. The Mystic River is right near her house so you may find her there some mornings feeding the hungry ducks some stale bread. Likewise, you might find her in her writing room at her keyboard making up some stories or poems or random sketches. And then she’s usually at Harvard during the week editing and designing books. She’s got a great life.

Introducing Cheryl Tucker

The Story of the White-Haired Fox

I've met a new friend, someone who people would say is a kindred spirit. I would just say a new friend, because all of my friends are kindred spirits.

She looks like a little girl, a middle-aged woman, and an old woman at the same time. Her smile is radiant because she is radiant. She is easily bored by mundane details and lets the important details run her life instead, like the hundreds of colors that can exist in one leaf.

But this is not a story about her. It's a story about a benevolent fox. The fox lived in a burrow in a forest on the slope of what we now know as White Mountain in New Hampshire, and before that Waumbek Mountain by the Native Americans, but back then, during the time of the fox, it was just in a vast expanse of woods. There were no chainsaws, no McDonald's wrappers dotting the trail (which is very close to this burrow), and no sound of jubilant voices or even exhausted voices, crying 'Mom, are we almost there?' There was no designation given to it by a cartographer, no numbers assigned its latitude and longitude.

No, this was before history began, before we began writing of foxes and trees and the sun and the moon. This just was.

This fox of which I am talking about was a spirit fox. She woke in the morning with red tufts of fur and by noon she was a creature of the forest walking upright like we do. She had long flowing white hair, though she was not old, and wore a green gown of silk, prepared by the worms in her burrow each night before her walk. This creature, leaving her burrow about mid-day every day, would walk the forests unseen. She was responsible for looking about: for observing the owls, the ravens, the spiders, the ladybugs, the squirrels, the wolves, the bears, the ants, the chipmunks, the worms, and especially, the trees. Her job was to just look and admire them. She was to take in the minutest detail, such as how a caterpillar's eyes look when it is chewing through the leaf of a birch tree (how industrious he is!). It is not a scientific eye that she must have had, though she was watching "science" as we know it--no, her job was to fully drink in the experience of nature. When she returned to her burrow in the early evening and changed back into her fox shape, she had no memory of the day's travails.

Now this fox did this every day for years and years. When her fox body died, she would simply take the form of another in the same burrow.

You may wonder, what was the good of taking all of these walks?

Well, we really can't say for sure. For that you must search deep within your heart to find out why. Or, you may, like most of us, not wonder at all, and just accept it. You may get closer to your answer, however, by looking at the only thing we have left now that resembles the mission of this fox--poetry. As a poet can sometimes be, our fox was unaware of herself when walking out every day to admire and appreciate what was around her. When she was walking through the forest, her hair shining white amidst all the dark tree trunks, her silk making barely a sound as it brushed up against the leaves of an oak, she was at her highest, most silvery state. She was as clear as a stream in the mountains and flowing as smoothly.

Our poets, now, are the ones who wake up and are bidden by an unknown source to go out and look as the fox did. They may have jobs or tend to children or look at tall buildings instead of giant hemlocks. But they are looking at the hemlocks too, and admiring.

Some say the fox died a mortal death many hundreds of years ago, was resurrected in the Native Americans, but then died finally when the Europeans came to New England. But there are also some who say they have seen a woman, dressed in green, her white hair glowing, walking through the trees on White Mountain, staring at a leaf of a birch with a smile on her face.

by Cheryl Tucker 2003