Ar scáth a chéile… Living in harmony

Photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of urban fox

Scroll down for the English language version – and there’s also a foxy video below, for your delectation.

Sé mhí ó shin chuala mé sionnach i gcoim na h-oíche. Screadach uaigneach dodhearmadta ar nós bean sí, is dócha, a bhí ann. (Níor chuala mé bean sí riamh).

Anois is arís feicimid sionnaigh sa cheantar agus muid ag siúl san oíche ach níor chuala mé ceann chomh ghar dúinn roimhe seo. Tá na gairdíní in aice linn fiáin go maith agus na sceacha ag scaipeadh isteach orainne. An fheadar an raibh an sionnach ina chónaí sa bhfiántas sin, i ngan fhios dúinn?

photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of urban fox

Chuaigh an t-am thart agus tháinig an t-earrach. Bhí na laethanta ag dul chun síneadh. Bhí an lon dubh ag canadh ag titim na h-oíche. Bhí sé níos gile sa ghairdín anois. Oíche amháin thug mé faoi dearadh go raibh rud eicint ag corraí sa ghairdín. Bhí sionnach ina luí ag an bhalla agus bhí beirt coileáin ag diúil aice! Bhí siad an-óg. Ní raibh siad rua go fóill – bhí cótaí liath orthu. Bhí an máthair an-aireach. Rinne sí cúram maith dá mhuirín bheag. Chomh luath agus a chonaic sí mise, léim sí agus sciob sí léi na páistí agus sciuird siad leo as radhairc.

Ach filleann siad anois is aríst. Níor chaill fear (nó bean) an mhisnigh riamh é. Tá scannáinín beag thíos faoi seo a chuireadh gliondar ar do chroí. Tá na coileáin níos mó anois. Tá Mamaí fós an-aireach…

I looked out the window the other evening and I saw…

Four fox cubs in the garden!  First there was the twins, we’ve often seen them, and then there was number three – where did he come from? Was he a neighbour, or a cousin, perhaps? He seemed to have been adopted by the vixen. (Do they do that? I don’t know.)

Anyway, they all seemed to get on well together, running amuck amongst the marigolds, bulldozing through the begonias… The ‘cousin’ was a bit bigger and a bit more cheeky but he added to the gaiety.

But then we saw number four. This was later on in the night. In fact, it was five to five in the morning. He came out from under my garden studio.

He stayed away from the marigolds; he seemed to prefer the clay. Digging – he liked digging. Was he an only child? I don’t know but I think we might have two families now – the boisterous MacFoxes and the quiet Sssshionnaigh.

photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of urban fox
This is the boss who we like to call: Colmcille ( St. Colmcille’s original name was Crimthann, which means: fox ).

The good thing about foxes is they scare away mice, and they actually eat slugs. Ok, so I shouldn’t be so hard on slugs, they being another one of God’s little creatures but jeepers, they are a real menace if you want to be organic.

But this brings me to the serious stuff – “Art in the Anthropocene” is a conference in Trinity College this June. The “Anthropocene” is the term for this era (now) when the overwhelming impact of exponentially expanding human development is destroying the very foundations of life on earth.

But a friend of mine, the eco-social artist, Dr Cathy Fitzgerald recently drew my attention to the idea of the “Symbiocene” which is the only way forward if we want to survive into the future. This term comes from the word “symbiosis” which means: living together for mutual benefit. It points to the interconnectedness of all living things.

One example would be cattle egrets eating ticks off buffalos’ backs…

– but there are much more complex ecosystems which have only recently been discovered. There are immense, mutually beneficial associations of macrofungi which contradicts the notion that in Nature, only the strong survive.

To quote from an essay by Glenn Albrecht: “We now know that, for example, health in forest ecosystems is regulated by what are called “mother trees” that control fungal networks that in turn interconnect trees of varying ages. The control system works to regulate nutrient flows to trees that need them most, such as very young ones. It also works to transfer information and energy from dying species to those that might continue to thrive, thus maintaining the forest as a larger system”.

These are the templates we humans should be replicating – not the ‘dog eat dog’ politics of so many of our current leaders.

And as for the foxes, well I’m delighted when I hear their Banshee screams and, if they fancy a feed of my slugs, I don’t mind if their cubs want to practice hunting in my forest of raspberries stalks.  Mutual Benefits – that’s what it’s all about.

What do you think?

Irish Wildlife Trust

Art in the Anthropocene conference

‘Entering the Symbiocene’

Dr Cathy Fitzgerald

Glenn Albrecht



  1. This is a very interesting post. I like the way you allow the foxes into your garden. I am fond of foxes although they are a much maligned feral animal over here in Australia.
    The idea of mother trees is fascinating, I agree. I often wonder if it applies to suburban neighbourhoods too. I have a very large ash tree in my garden. There is a much smaller one next door – a self sown child of the larger tree I think. There is a definite feeling of affinity between the two.


  2. Reblogged this on The Hollywood Forest Story : An Eco-Social Art Practice | Co. Carlow Ireland and commented:
    I’m not quite sure how it happened, but I have had a tremendous response, over 500 visitors, looking at my article and podcast on saying “Goodbye to the Anthropocene and Hello Symbiocene” that I posted on Monday. Glenn Albrecht’s in-depth but very accessible ideas, in his new book ‘Earth Emotions: New Words for a New World’ (2019), that map the atrocities of the Anthropocene to a more harmonious future where we prioritise the thriving of all beings -the Symbiocene, seems to have struck a chord with many.

    Today, I was particularly excited that another Irish artist I know has a keen sense of the Symbiocene in his backyard. Eoin is from an old friend of mine, we both were in the same painting class at the National College of Art and Design many years ago. We were delighted to find we will be co-exhibiting at a small exhibition organised by Imelda Healy, that is running alongside a conference ‘Art in the Anthropocene’ being held in Trinity College, 7-9 June 2019. I am fortunate to be giving my talk again “Goodbye to the Anthropocene and Hello Symbiocene” on Friday 7th June, Session 1.2.2: Eco-social Responses to the Anthropocene Session Convenor: Yvonne Scott, Chair: TBA, Time: 13.45 – 15.15 Venue: Beckett Theatre, Samuel Beckett Centre, Trinity College Dublin. See the full programme here

    Back to Eoin’s post below: I thought Hollywood was doing well with a Great Spotted Woodpecker visiting lately, but look at the furry, delightful neighbours that Eoin has at his home in suburban Dublin. Eoin speaks Gaeilige so his post is first in Irish, then English – enjoy!


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