I saw a dead fox on the side of the highway this morning.

It is rare to see a fox in the wild in this part of Ontario. It’s even more rare to see them within the city, although a friend told me today she’s seen them in High Park in Toronto.

This fox was stunning. His bright orange coat constrasted with the white fur of his chest, which was glowing in the early morning light. He stood out against the bland background of asphault and concrete on the QEW. I caught just the briefest of glimpses as I sailed past at highway speed – just long enough to know I’d identified his spieces correctly, but thankfully not long enough to see the extent of his injuries.

He has been with me all day.

I have been struggling with a decision I made. The decision to take down the trees at the back of my new yard. This decision has put two parts of me at odds with each other: first, my desire to grow vegetables in order to feed my family and second, my belief that we shouldn’t remove habitat useful to wild animals if it’s not absolutely necessary. The birds love those trees – it’s rare that I see the branches empty!

What does this have to do with the fox? You see, I hate that I drive to work. I was going to say, “That I have to drive to work”, but that would be a lie. I don’t have to drive to work. I choose to drive to work. I took transit for my first week (TTC bus-subway-subway, GO Transit train, Missisauga Transit bus) and it was nearly 2 hours each way – in perfect weather and without any of the usual GO Transit delays. So I bought a car. I made an effort to buy a car that would have a smaller impact on the environment than others, but still, it’s a car. And I drive alone 35km each way from my house to work and back again. I carpooled for a while, but there’s no one in my neighbourhood that works at my company.

And I feel. so. guilty.

Seeing that fox this morning, I had a sudden vivid visual reminder of the impact of the decision I made when I gave up my transit passes and bought my car. My car that I love so much I’ve given him a name (“Oswald”, if you must know). Although I didn’t hit him myself, I have been consumed by self-loathing all day for that choice that I made – that many other people make every day – that led to the death of that rare and beautiful creature. That choice that flies in the face of some of my strongest values. I have no guilt for buying my car – but I feel guilt for driving it every day. For putting 55 litres of diesel fuel into the air every two weeks. Even when it’s biodiesel, it’s still so wasteful.

That fox – and the guilty concience he’s become for me today – have made me think again about other decisions I’ve made. Like those trees. Those beautiful, healthy cedar trees that make up wonderful habitat for the neighbourhood birds. Those trees that I am cutting down on Saturday, to make room for my garden – my hobby.

Yes, gardening is more than a hobby. I believe strongly in gardening as a political act, an act of care for my family, possibly even a revolutionary act. But without touching those trees, I could still plant tomatoes. I could still grow my peppers. I could cover my giant deck with containers and grow food there. I do not have to take those trees down. But I want a bigger garden, so the trees are being cleared out.

This decision has been made and I’m not going to go back on it. I’ve even made myself feel better by planning a large patch of berries, which should drive those birds even more wild than the cedars do. I can take down those trees and I can live with the decision.

But I will think of that fox and the awareness that he brought that my choices have consequences. And that sometimes my choices have more to do with my convenience than my values.

I do my best to make my choices after long and careful thought.

But still, I am haunted.

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