A natural mother

In 1953-1954, Rene Magritte created a painting titled Empire of Light. The artwork is depicted in the image above.

At dusk, I had the pleasure of viewing a fox glide under my window. Regularly, just before nightfall, she would slip along my street heading for the Old Finsbury Town Hall.

During the lockdown, the pleasant collection of pubs and eateries from St. John Street to King’s Cross Road were mostly deserted by Londoners, likely having taken their hour’s-worth of exercise during the warmer afternoon. By night, the foxes were the only ones to claim the streets.

Though I was not sure of her exact age, I was aware that she was elderly. I was relatively new in London and had only had limited exposure to foxes. I tried to guess her age based on the amount of gray fur that had mixed with her original bright orange fur from her tail to the top of her head.

It did not appear to be mange, as the remaining orange fur was more vibrant than that of younger foxes, similar to how the sky glows before the sunset. Additionally, her gait was much slower and not as confident as the swift strides of her peers.

She appeared to not be bothered by me walking beside her. I kept a fair distance, approximately fourteen feet, as she circled around the town hall, went back to Skinner Street which was vacant, and passed by the Co-op which had shut down prematurely for cleaning and re-stocking.

I trailed her towards Spa Fields park, where I was convinced that I would lose her; she had sped up while crossing the street. When she arrived at the park’s closed fence, she paused, then sniffed a blossoming bush. The park closed at nightfall, and the wall was too tall for me to jump over.

With the police now being more suspicious of people outside after dark, it seemed sensible to abandon her here. What reason would I give if they captured me?I have been unable to comprehend why the British have such an intense fixation with hunting foxes.

Even in urban areas, people appear to be suspicious of them. When I first moved to London during the beginning of January, I was in temporary accommodation near the Royal Courts of Justice and the Seven Stars pub.

On my first night in the city, I was strolling around the London School of Economics and I was followed by a fox, likely drawn to the aroma of warm chicken in my Waitrose bag.He stayed at a polite distance, walking on the opposite side of the sidewalk.

I pondered if it would be safe to give him food. I had recently arrived from New York and was exhausted from the flight. In my new home, anything seemed feasible, even sharing a meal with a wild creature on the steps of the Royal Courts.

When we passed the Seven Stars, where some men were drinking, they were so surprised that they almost dropped their drinks. I jumped back, thinking that I had done something wrong. One of them shook his head to let me know that I wasn’t the one they were looking at and pointed at the fox.

By that time, the animal had gotten through the fence surrounding the Courts.When I had fallen behind, my friend stayed put at Spa Fields. When I reached her, she stood up unsteadily and headed down a side street, leading us to one of my favorite spots in the area.

There, the buildings were close together and the streets branched off each other like arrows. Night had come, the sky had shifted to a deep blue with a tinge of pink, and the streetlights had flickered on.

The air was of the best quality I had ever experienced in any place I had lived, comparable to that of the Alps, due to the low amount of cars, jets and freighters in London. This was a bittersweet moment for me since it highlighted that the Earth is most beautiful without humans. A depressing victory, in a way.

The fox ventured on, forgoing the park for a side street. I trailed behind, reflecting on her theories of the lockdown, and whether animal intelligence only assesses the world in terms of danger. We weren’t gone, as she must have noticed me following her, it was simply what we did that had decreased.

The bustling city, with its many ways of endangering her, had finally ceased its movement. A reprieve. Fewer trucks on the roads, no inebriated bar-goers, no foxhunters. Her perception of time must have changed as a consequence, initially subtly, then more perceptibly, as ours had.

During the initial days of lockdown, I strived to divide my days into distinct parts–working from home, reading, writing, sleeping, speaking on the phone–however, eventually these categories merged. The only division that remained fixed and real, was the one between those on ventilators and those who were not.

While this is occurring, thousands pass away (and still do) beyond the lockdown, in the other world of NHS hospitals and Operation Nightingale tents which is practically inconceivable.

My favorite house had creamy white walls, a painted door, and a tree in its yard.

On the side facing a small alley, two concrete steps led up to a vivid green door that was situated in a recess. The first floor had only one window, with three other potential openings on either side.

At night, most of the house was in darkness, apart from the green door, which was illuminated by a faint glow from a streetlamp nearby. I heard a fox’s voice for the first time–it sounded like a mouse, not a puppy. I wondered if the fox was waiting for someone to throw its food.

When I look at the house, I am reminded of Rene Magritte’s series of late paintings, Empire of Light (1945-1967). In these works, a single front door is illuminated by a street lamp in a Belgian suburb and the sky is blue, with clouds.

Magritte seems to be making the point that time is an illusion and night and day both exist simultaneously; the world is round. He is suggesting the strangeness of modern life, that when we look closely at the mundane things, like apples, hats, pipes and houses, they lose their reality and become something else.

This house is not a real one, it is a painting, and it argues that time and space are just a matter of perspective. The longer we look at it, the more peculiar it appears, even if it is not as Realistic as other Magritte paintings. When I see my favorite house in Islington, behind Spa Fields, this is what I think of.

At the outset of the coronavirus, images of people embracing while wearing masks circulated the web, mimicking Magritte’s The Lovers (1928), which portrays a couple whose faces are concealed in white cloth, embracing.

These memes exemplified the lack of imagination seen during the pandemic; a much-used painting had been put to a new, inappropriate use.

Those quarantined couples appropriating The Lovers failed to acknowledge the real issue of the crisis, which is not simply the limited romantic connections, but a disruption of one’s sense of time and place.

We are informed that we are “behind Italy,” yet “ahead of Canada.” In contemplation of the virus-induced isolation, distance, and global turmoil, it is not The Lovers that comes to mind, but rather The Empire of Light.

It didn’t appear to me that foxes lived up to the reputation of being cunning and sly, though my journey with one was not into a fabled land. I had no destination to reach, so it seemed I was of little interest to her.

We simply strolled around my neighborhood, going in circles, like a Magritte painting where day and night exist simultaneously and the world keeps turning but never changing.She placed her paws on the house’s walls and meowed with her head held high. No one came to the window with a piece of bacon or a drumstick.

It appeared she’d done this before when the window stayed shut, and she looked at me with a demand. What are you doing just standing around? Can’t you do something? All the local food stores were already closed for the night, and the lights inside the house weren’t even on; it seemed the residents had left.

By the time I got my phone out to take a picture, something I felt I could do, the fox had vanished. She must have decided it was best to look for a meal elsewhere, as I didn’t even make an effort to help her by calling out.

Other Options To Consider

An alternative way of expressing the same concept is to rearrange the words. By changing the structure, it is possible to eliminate any plagiarism while still maintaining the same context and semantic meaning.


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