entrances of a den or digging out the den or burrow, you set
a snare where an animal goes, and a good snare set works because it is unobtrusive. And there they hang—a nice clean
loop, no mechanical springs or parts, nothing but gravity and
the animal’s own struggles to help with the kill—and could
hang forever, waiting. It is tempting to think of snaring (and
trapping) metaphorically—we already speak of things like
“snares of love,” for example— but the real beauty of it is literal: this wire, on this trail, will choke to death a fox whose life
is not that of all foxes, but was his and his alone.
Four days after my mother received her diagnosis, we went,
as we did every day, to check our snares. We drove out into the
fields and checked our line along the old fencerows and among
the jack pine and down near the slough. Nothing. We drove
back out into the fields and Micah yelled, “Stop, stop!” I stood
on the brakes, and above the dead brown grass we saw a fox
jumping and twisting. He would disappear into the grass and
then jump in the air and fall back down. We bailed out of the
truck and ran toward it. He was caught in the snare we’d set
in the open field on the tire track. It was a clean catch. Tight
around his neck. But he must have just gotten into the snare a
short while ago. The stick to which the snare was wired was too
big for the fox to drag very far.
They Have a Point
When the gods gave us all the holes
leading into our darkness, they planned
on our needing a mystery. It amuses them
that what is inside the body
is more body. The same body, but different.
They first said the bodies should be mostly moss
inside. But they kept coming back to the mystery.
Moss, they said, can be seen outside,
and what is outside can be accountable.
Though they liked that moss would have kept
everyone soft and green, they decided it was best
to fill each thing with itself, which would then be hidden
within the other. Look at stones, they said.
Look at water, which is like the throat of water.
FEW DAYS later my mother went into surgery; they resected her ribs and re- moved the lower two of the three lobes
of her right lung. All of us were waiting for her
in intensive care when they wheeled her bed in.
She was still unconscious and on a respirator. A long translucent
tube snaked from a hole in her side down to a bag filled with
blood and a slimy yellowish fluid. She was gray and ashen, and
though she wasn’t awake and couldn’t have spoken if she were,
the way the tube went down her throat distorted her face. She
looked like she was screaming. But her body was limp, her eyes
shut. The only sound was that of the respirator and the squeak
of our chairs. I wanted her to live. I wanted it more than I had
reason to expect she would. I closed my eyes and tried to think of
something else— of something other than her pain, and whatever the future might be, something other than our collective
hopelessness. I could think of nothing.
The fox we’d snared had also wanted to live. That, after all, was
its purpose. He’d wanted it so much that when he felt the snare
tightening and he couldn’t breathe, he tried to run away, to get his
body far from the snare and the log to which it was attached. He
jumped again and again, and it was something both strange and
beautiful. He lifted clear into the air — a bright flash of red against
the sky — and then disappeared below the grass, which was about
three feet high. First his nose, then his body, and then his black-and-white-tipped-tail cleared the grass and was jerked back down
by the weight of the log. He jumped and jumped and jumped
again. All his traits and everything he had learned, the land itself
and what it o=ered him, forced him to choose this path, on that
patch of land on that day, and it was killing him. His instincts were
killing him, but it was his instinct to live, too.
Finally we drew close enough to knock him on the head
with the ax handle and down he went. I felt the quickness of
his breath as I knelt on him with one knee. With one hand on
his head and the other on his chest, I felt his heart and the life
in it. Who knew a heart could beat that fast? I felt, too, in those
beats and under that fur, in that quick, elegant body, how much
it strained toward life, how much it jumped for it. Everything
in that animal’s body was bent on it. It wanted to live. And
we, too, gathered around our mother, wanted to live. And she
wanted to live. Us and all the others and everyone — regardless
of the lives we’d led and more than anything else, and beyond
the agonies and dangers that attend every act and action of
ours in this life, we all wanted to live. And that desire, if not
the result, is something to think about. A