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  • by Janet St. John

Art & Soul Short #3

John Woodhouse Audubon. American, 1812 - 1862

Long-Tailed Red Fox. 1848/1854. Oil on canvas

56.2 x 69.3 cm (22 1/8 x 27 5/16 in.) framed: 62.6 x 75.7 x 4.1 cm (24 5/8 x 29 13/16 x 1 5/8 in.)

Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington

A fox enters the scene through the mouth of another writer. We are sitting in a large room at a library. Four of us. The words "mouth" and "body" rise from our readings, our writing, our sharing. Then a photograph a week later. I see within a river the outline of a fox face, pointed triangle of red-gold-brown fur; head only; nose bulbous, exaggerated-round. "The shapeshifter," says a Google reference on animal symbolism. "Fox can teach adaptability." Fox is here to teach me the gift of who I have been, maybe have forgotten. I don’t need to bear-cry or bend anyone to my will. It has not served me. When I am who I am, I adjust, shift, step to one side, advance, hold back: in a classroom; cafeteria; at a party; after a reading with other writers. No. It doesn’t take much to fit there. We writers know the tingle of air currents across our fur. Our noses scent wind change, predator stalking, prey just beyond our sight. Our senses alert to subtle shifts in environment, whichever place we inhabit. We write to taste silent, internal words form in our mouths, offer them to the page like regurgitated food the female wolf offers hungry pups, all she has, the substance she sought, consumed, sacrificed. What was once inside finds its way out. The fox I am follows invisible compass toward the next meal and the next, toward food I take in, so something else can come out. Into mouth. From it. Into body. Leaving. Like breathing. I stalk the spirit in all of it to bring it in and give it back.

Your turn. Want to let this image or these words inspire you? Feel free to share your writing in the Comments below. Or share a link to your blog or website.

Keep in mind: 1) 350-word max 2) Any genre for your short. 3) No posting of advice or criticism about anyone else's short.

VISUAL ARTISTS are encouraged to respond/share with photographs, drawings, etc.!

Thanks for joining me here!

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