Every summer, the ranch-gate culvert housed a den of foxes. We’d see them shortly after we arrived in late May, then hear them for three months as they circled the house after nightfall, yipping and howling for attention and food. (The nocturnal symphony included yodeling coyotes, one mountain lion roar, and unidentified noises guaranteed to scare the bejeebers out of visiting city kids.)

Mama Fox, whom someone named Fanny, was an attractive vixen, a fixture in our glacial-moraine valley. Her kits‚ goofy with spindly red legs and tall black knee socks, grew rapidly to mark the passage of a fleeting season. They were a tradition.

Foxes on this mountaintop where I now live are a half mile away, tucked in a ravine. Distant neighbors at best. But we have Isabella.

She is a graceful creature with the face of an angel. I first saw her bedded down four feet from me, on our east slope in a tight aspen grove. She enjoyed a sunny patch where 800 daffodils would bloom sixty days later. The tiny, spotted fawn had a perfectly symmetric white face, very unusual and distinctive. And her eyelashes would make a supermodel jealous. I could see them from the dining room! When I posted her photo, a friend said she was so beautiful that her name must be Isabella.

The early spring of her youth led to summer, then a less-brutal winter, and finally another warm season. I had forgotten about her except when I happened across her image during iPhoto housekeeping.

But after our fourth snow of the season, I pulled into the drive to find deer munching wildflower shreds. One looked up and—voila! The white face. The long lashes. The peaceful visage. She had grown from a beautiful fawn into a lovely doe. I got out and rounded the corner for a better look. She delicately nipped her way to the edge of the meadow, glanced at me over her shoulder, and sashayed down the hill.

Long live Isabella!

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