GOODNIGHT FOX ISLAND

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I sat on the front screened-in porch of Fox Island, curled up with a Fisherman’s Corner mug filled with tea and a blanket tucked around me, watching the golden marsh wave goodnight to the November sun. Inside, the woodstove emitted coziness and warmth as the choppy bay beneath slapped a hollow, comfortable rhythm against the worn, wooden floorboards. I had detritus in my hair and the distinct smell of Fox Island on my clothes; peace, contentment, and fullness settled around me in the way that only Fox Island magic can- Goodnight Foxes.

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Have you ever loved a place so wild and raw that it ignites a part of your soul that had been lying dormant, patiently waiting for a spark? An old 1929 rod and gun club lodge on Fox Island in the Chesapeake Bay was the spark of magic that brought me home. Home to nature, home to myself, home to my place in this world. Foxes gently shed the protective layers that societal norms and expectations had piled upon me. In my bareness, she showed me that wildness exists not only around us, but within us.

 

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Sunrise canoe with students at Fox

Fox Island is one of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s environmental education centers. Students come out to this unique marsh island in the middle of the Bay for three-day field experiences, where they set crab pots, dredge for oysters, go marsh mucking, and feel the pulse of the Chesapeake Bay in every sunrise, sunset, and each breath in between. I lived and worked on Fox Island, first as a seasonal educator and later as the program manager. It’s hard to say how many educators have lived at Foxes or how many students have walked her weathered, wooden docks, but her impact has reverberated through all of us. The lessons Fox Island taught us go deeper than water quality or species logs.

 

IMG_4351Foxes gets into the nooks and crannies of your soul, the cracks of your skin, the crinkles of your mind. Fox Island magic hangs in the nostalgic, earthy smell that greets you when you push open the screen door and enter the lodge. It crackles over the VHF radio as the chatter among watermen working nearby echoes quietly through the hall. Fox Island magic is climbing up to the crow’s nest at night to lay back and drink in the stars, looking at an incomprehensible vastness, but knowing the only place in the universe you want to be is right here. Fox Island magic is nighttime fishing from your bedroom window as you gently chat with Captain Larry in the room next door, who also has a rod poked through his wide-open window. It is knowing the rhythm of the tides, winds, moonrises, and sunsets. Fox Island magic is living in the simplest, most natural, and most satisfying way my heart has ever known.

 

This autumn, Fox Island welcomed the last group of students to soak up her magic. She is now being emptied of the bushel basket paintings, animal skeletons, bunk beds, arrowhead collections, and the rest of the quirky character that she has accumulated over the 40 plus years she has functioned as an education center. Fox Island will be sold. Climate change has whittled the protective marsh surrounding Foxes to a mere shadow of what it once was. The lodge now sits on open water, vulnerable to each passing high tide and storm. The Bay waters have crept higher and higher, persistently knocking on Foxes’ doors. As hard as she fights to keep the rising water out, Fox Island cannot win against climate change. My heart throbs with the sadness of true loss when I think IMG_1378of Fox Island’s magic being silenced. It’s more than the loss of a place- it’s the loss of a feeling, a history, a legend.

 

Think of the wild place you love most in the world. This is what we’re fighting for. This is what climate change threatens to take from us. This is why I am howling for change from the top of the Fox Island crow’s nest. If you would like to be part of the effort to protect your unique, wild place, try searching for any environmental nonprofits in that area and reach out to them asking how you can become involved. Perhaps they need volunteers, or invest in them by purchasing a membership. Educate yourself about the threats to your special place and help raise awareness about these issues. As places like Fox Island become more and more scarce, we must come together to kindle their magic to ensure future generations live in a world where enchantments are waiting, just around the next bend in the marsh. 

*Click here to learn more about the Fox Island Farewell

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Canoeing back to Foxes on a slick cam’ low tide
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Jumping the pilings- a Fox Island tradition
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Staying warm and cozy inside the lodge during an autumn storm
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The corn shed
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Shooting clay pigeons
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Stargazing after sunset. Photo by Ian Robbins, a former Fox Island manager
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Gathering treasures from the marsh

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Captain Larry docking the Jenny S at Foxes
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Fox Island parties were always the best parties
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Many fish have been caught from this bedroom window
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While living on Fox, skiffing was the only way to get around

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