I can relate to Catherine Raven in many ways. I understand what it’s like to feel inept at social relationships and appreciate nature’s beauty. But our similarities end there. She’s brave, independent, and open in ways I can’t imagine. Adjusting to her writing style may take a while, but it’s worth it.
In Fox and I, Raven recounts how, after acquiring a Ph.D. in biology and buying a small plot of land far from the nearest town, she set up a private wilderness camp in a small cottage she had built there. Her life up to that point is impressive enough to me. After a neglected childhood, she left home at 15 and never returned after age 16. Instead, she headed west and began working odd jobs, winding up as a backcountry ranger in several national parks.
Her life, though busy and challenging, was also lonely. But while she was living on her plot of land, attempting to manage it responsibly that honored the other creatures living there, she began to receive visits from a scrawny, local fox. After they became comfortable in one another’s company, she began reading to him, providing him with homemade remedies for mange, taking walks, and playing games together.
While this may sound like something out of a fairytale, it wasn’t. Raven worried about her wild friend’s health and suffered when she was away from him for too long. She also regretted hurting his feelings on occasion. And she worried about how her relationship with a wild creature would be perceived by her students and peers in the scientific community.
I became immersed in her world as she weaved the verbal cocoon around her story. It wasn’t a cozy world, and Raven sugarcoats none of it. She tells you initially that she knew the relationship would be brief. But, in the end, you join her in awe at the natural world. You see life and death for what they are, tiny fragments of an incredible whole. And you find yourself questioning what matters in the end. It was a beautiful book I would recommend to anyone who loves animals and nature.