Last week I read that crows will remember, for quite a long time, the faces of people who have harrassed them. I've never harrassed a crow, but I have had the suspicion that the crows in our neighborhood recognize me, the lone foreigner, in much the way that the neighbors, even ones living a few blocks away whom I've never formally met, recognize me. So this week I wrote a poem about crows (but I'll bet most people who write poems have a poem about crows).
I was also once recognized by a fox. We were living on the base of a mountain, and one day I was walking down the mountain on our narrow street, houses on the left side, woods on the right. I was the only one on the road and it was very quiet, when a fox came out of the woods, probably thinking the road was deserted. He saw me and came to a dead stop, as did I. We stared at each other; I was frightened but told myself that he was likely more frightened of me than I was of him. Then the fox walked towards me, directly at me. I considered running away, but thought that would encourage him to chase me, so I just started walking down the mountain, acting as if he wasn't there. He fell in step right beside me. I looked down. He was looking up at me as he walked. I stopped walking, thinking maybe he would trot ahead, but he stopped and waited for me. I began walking again and so did he, all the while gazing up at me.
Okay, I thought, the fox and I are apparently going to walk down the mountain road together. He never took his eyes off me, and was clearly not afraid of me, as I would have expected him to be. Then I realized--he had probably never seen a foreigner before, probably never seen a redhead before. He probably thought I was part human and part fox because of my coloring. In any case, he certainly seemed to recognize me. We continued down the hill till we came close to a crossroad that had cars whizzing along it. The fox then veered right, going back into the woods, but not before turning and giving me one last look.
When I told my husband about the fox, he reminded me of a wild animal we had nursed back to health. It had been living under a bridge in our neighborhood, and it was completely hairless and emaciated--so much so that I thought it was a tanuki (an animal indigenous to Japan that looks like something like a raccoon or an oppossum) while my husband had thought that it was a fox. It was so sick that we couldn't really tell what it was, and of course it kept far away from us. We brought food to the bridge and tossed it down to the poor creature, until one day it wasn't there anymore. My husband thought the fox from the woods was the recovered animal that we had nursed, and that's why it wasn't afraid of me.
I don't know why the fox didn't fear me, but it made me feel so much less alone, living as a foreigner here in Japan, to be recognized and honored by the fox. And also the crows, who I feel sure know me.