EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND — Late in the evenings, my son and I go out looking for foxes.
We came upon this little ritual by accident. The first night of our stay in our guest bungalow, I had gone out to the street at 11 p.m. to await his arrival from Switzerland. He was coming by taxi from the airport.
I took up my position leaning against a stone wall, and immediately saw a fox trotting across the street. It was followed closely by another fox. They hopped up the opposite curb, crossed a sidewalk and disappeared into dense shrubbery between two houses.
What luck, I thought. I didn’t realize that these sightings would happen virtually every time we ventured out at that time of night. Foxes must find plenty to eat in residential Edinburgh, a city of a half-million people here on the North Sea.
Grant and I made the fox walk almost nightly. It didn’t matter which direction we went. We’d see one walking down a sidewalk or ducking behind a hedge. We’d see them angling across a quiet street or along Edinburgh’s wonderful network of paved walking and biking paths.
Although this is a tidy city, its trash well-stowed in large plastic bins along the street, the foxes must find plenty of leftovers worth scavenging.
One night, the two of us ran into a man standing on a neighborhood corner with his dog. We struck up a conversation and, sure enough, a fox diagonaled across the intersection as we visited. The man told us he had seen up to 20 on a single evening’s walk. And they can be brazen, he said. He told about a fox that entered the open door of a small corner grocery, grabbed a carton containing a half-dozen eggs and scampered out the door.
You have to admire that kind of boldness.
While the potential for seeing a bit of urban wildlife gets us out of our guest house late in the evening, these walks have come to mean much more to me. They offer rare chances to be one-on-one and side-by-side with my son, now in his 30s, who has lived abroad for most of the past five or six years.
We walk along, our conversation drifting from one topic to another — perhaps a reminiscence from his childhood years, but more likely some aspect of our current lives in two different parts of the world. He’s easy to talk to. He’s an affable man. He asks good questions. He knows how to listen.
He will have to leave in a few days and fly back to Lausanne. I think I will still go out late at night looking for foxes.