Monday, January 26, 2009

BEGUILED BY GEESE

I am beguiled by geese…mesmerized, enchanted, bewitched—and in no small way, smitten. For me, the sight of flying geese is a natural magic, a cast spell which instantly transforms both moment and mood.
Mostly I’m talking Canada geese. I’ve seen a few snow geese and blues, but was so thrilled by their rarity that I can’t say one way or the other whether it was the geese that caused my reaction, or the unexpectedness of the event.
Not that today’s ubiquitous Canadas were always so common. In fact, I can remember a time when a flight of Canada geese was a rare sight, so noteworthy that it would be talked about for days thereafter among neighbors, recounted at the hardware store, market, and café, and might even make the local paper.
When I was a little boy, Mom or Dad would sometimes call urgently for me to dash outside—“Hurry, Son! Hurry!” they’d cry. “The geese are coming!”
These exciting moments usually took place in spring or fall, when the birds were heading north or south in migration, following their ancient flyways, likely traveling high in the sky. Sometimes their ragged skeins contained more than a hundred birds. There wasn’t much traffic or noise back then, so you could hear the cries of the oncoming flock while they were still a long ways off. Their cries would float down as if from heaven, throaty, angelic, a voice all but disembodied from those moving cross-stitches which eventually appeared, flying almost in the clouds.
And we—my parents and I—would watch, transfixed by the sight and wonder of those passing geese…and we would continue standing there even after the birds had disappeared from view, listening, until the last sound of their passage had also faded into silence.
Perhaps that’s why I still prefer my geese to be flying. Oh, a goose on the ground is interesting enough. And I do like to see a parental pair of geese paddling around a quiet backwater, towing their little flotilla of fuzzy goslings.
But geese on the wing are what stirs my soul.
Come twilight, a ragged string of calling geese cleaving a painted sky is all the proof I’ll ever need of a creator God. Only a force far greater than man and more purposeful than chance could conceive and fashion so breathtaking a creature. There is something about those big birds on the wing that’s both holy and magnificent, a poignant glory that assails my heart like a sweet flame. I never know whether to weep with joy or shout in jubilation.
Lucky for me—lucky for all of us!—the modern history of the Canada goose is a tale of comeback. What might have been a story of unfathomable loss is now one of triumphant plenitude—too triumphant, some might mutter.
It is said Ernest Hemingway had a way with bears. He often admitted to liking bears, and bears seemingly responded in kind—at least so claim several friends who witnessed this reciprocal behavior. An Ojibway acquaintance once speculated that bears might have been his “totem animal,” a sort of kindred spirit that bridges the gap between worlds—animal and man, natural and supernatural, known and unknown.
That’s how it is with me and geese. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a string of geese veer my way, often turning from a different directional line and a fair distance away, to pass directly overhead. (And no, I know what you’re thinking…and I’ve never been “bombed” by an over-flying goose.) Sometimes they flew so low I could hear the rush of wind beneath those great heaving wings.
A skeptic might chalk such anecdotes up to mere coincidence or an overeager imagination. Could be, says the wry ornithologist, those birds were just curious as to why that burly fellow was standing on that riverbank looking up, mouth agape.
Perhaps…
But isn't it just possible all such matters can’t be explained by science or dismissed by skepticism? Much as we like to believe otherwise, we don't yet know it all; answers by the multitudes elude us every day. There is still wonder in the world waiting to be discovered.
I do know that if I believed in reincarnation, I’d like to come back as a goose. I like the way geese talk to each other as they travel, and the way they share the lead during flights. I like how they pick their mate and stick together. They're gregarious, adventurous, boisterous, and will stand their ground if challenged. They're also regal in a flat-footed, silly way—and I like the dichotomy of that; man or goose, we should never take ourselves too seriously.
But most of all, just once, I wish to know what it’s like to lift my wings and fly up there, alongside my brethren, above the trees, in the heady grace of a painted sky.

27 comments:

bobbie said...

Your words are beautiful, as always. I do know the feeling you describe. There is something about a flight of geese... And no, we should not always heed the "voice of reason". There are many things we are not meant to understand.

I come by often, but have a very difficult time trying to leave comments. Blogger just won't cooperate. Often have to give up.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bobbie…

I'm glad you liked the piece.

Some readers will doubtless see it as fanciful romanticism bordering on the anthropomorphic. But I do believe that life has both meaning and purpose, that wonder still exists, and that we'd often be far better off if we closed our mouths, opened our hearts, and reconnected and listened that soft inner voice.

Please keep plugging away at that reluctant Blogger comment box. And visit whenever you can…you're always welcome.

The Solitary Walker said...

Hard times at the moment; I'm finding blogging and keeping up with my favourite blogs difficult.

But I did like your piece very much.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Solitary…

I understand. I haven't forgotten you. Thank you for reading and writing.

And hang in there…better days will come.

Deb said...

"Come twilight, a ragged string of calling geese cleaving a painted sky is all the proof I’ll ever need of a creator God."

Beautiful.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Deb…

Thank you, honestly…thank you.

Jenn Jilks said...

I am glad to read of others who are fascinated with the geese! Mostly I talk to mine, and watch them on our rock cropping.

I wrote a bit of a story around our visitors Eva, Eddie and Lonesome Charlie! The photos are there.

I have been accused of much, but fanciful, never! It is so much fun.

giggles said...

yep...grace....

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Jenn…

I am a goose man, pure and simple. And I will read your piece.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Giggles…

I try to live each and every day with grace, and within grace…and recognize the difference.

Bella said...

I enjoyed your story and the photo! Isn't it funny how we as humans entertain a connection or identity with animals. I suppose this goes way back in our ancestral ways.

I've never heard of anyone identifying with geese, lol, but that may be reflective of my urban existence or the ever-increasing identification with material objects rather than animate objects.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bella…

Hey, I have no idea what it is with me and geese…but it has been there all my life. I'm glad it wasn't garter snakes or fiddler crabs, or some such inelegant critters.

So you're sayin' you city folk are more apt to get all dreamy-eyed over, say, a taxi cab, and a new Starbucks might make your heart pitty-patter? (Just kidding. :-)

Val said...

I'm touched. Beautiful post, Grizzled.

Raph G. Neckmann said...

It is so good to read the words of others who feel this: ' a poignant glory that assails my heart like a sweet flame. I never know whether to weep with joy or shout in jubilation.'

I have not seen, or heard, geese flying, but so very often experience that which you describe. Walking in the woods, gardening, just sitting and looking at the trees and the sky.

Thank you.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Val…

I wondered if you'd like this one…and glad you did.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Raph…

Never heard or seen geese a'flyin'! Oh, my, oh, my. You are in for a real treat one of these days. One of nature's all-time most glorious sounds and sights. Truly.

And thank you for your kind words.

giggles said...

And what about the sound of the duck "whistle" as they fly overhead??!!

KGMom said...

I'm with you--I find the sound of an approaching flight of geese absolutely spell-binding. I watch and wait.
I saw a string of geese flying at night across a full moon. Breath-taking. Of course, I had no camera, so only my mind's eye recorded it.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Giggles…

Duck whistles? I do think I know what you mean—that musical (yes, whistling) sound, like a sigh or the tearing of silk.

But, alas, ducks…lovely, exciting, but not that monarch of the sky and stirrer of my soul, the mighty goose.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

KGMom…

I'm glad you share a joy in watching geese fly. I, too, have watched them go sailing across a starlit sky, and sometimes in front of a full moon. When I was a kid, in the latter weeks of autumn, a friend and I would take our sleeping bags and "camp" out on the roof of a neighbor's garage, which was slanted about like most garage roofs, or at about a 40 degree angle. We had to tie ourselves onto the garage to keep from sliding off! We did this to watch stars and watch for geese which were on their migration south. About one out of four nights we'd actually be awake and manage to see, or at least hear, the big birds up there in the darkness. Crazy.

P.S. I'll reply to the comment you left on the other entry tomorrow—gotta hit the hay for tonight.

giggles said...

I share your wonderment of geese (to a degree... I, of the golfing sort, do not appreciate goose poop underfoot and stuck in cleat) but was truly amazed, stunned, intrigued, by the sound of the whistle of ducks flying.... I did not expect it....

But the grace and beauty of taking the time to enjoy geese flying is a real treat.... And I tend to take it for granted these days...living across the street from the golf course and a large field, they are quite busy around here...all year long.... The golf course folk are in constant battle to keep them off their turf...losing quite soundly I should add!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Giggles…

As you've apparently noticed, a goose on the ground is not the same bird as that wondrous creature flying in yonder sky.

Being a fisherman, I can't tell you the number of times I've dang near broke my neck slipping on goose poop. The stuff is as slick as grease! One misstep into goose poop and a fisherman can find himself off the bank and into the water with his intended quarry. Bystanders find this highly amusing.

As to the ongoing goose/golf course wars…my money is on the goose. Somewhere back about 1950 the Canada goose decided it would rather not join ranks with the passenger pigeon and Carolina parakeet just yet, thank you very much. And so decided, they sent the word out…let us go hither and inhabit the world of man, specifically his golf course which were practically designed with goose welfare in mind. Furthermore, let us multiply, like grains of sand on a beach or stars in a midnight sky. And so they did, in drove and herds, and gaggles…and so they will remain, forever and always.

Watch your step!

giggles said...

So noted!

Bernie said...

WOW Grizz, you let your soul show in this post, it's beautiful. Your connection to the geese is amazing and I like the burly man in this post....I like your heart and honesty. I can only compare with my connection/feelings about dogs. I love them, my last dog was such a part of me after 17 years that his passing left me devastated. I didn't want to know that kind of pain again ever so I wouldn't get another one but now I am ready...I am hoping to give a nice home to one from the pound before winter. Sorry, didn't mean to ramble.
Thanks for sharing.....:-) Hugs

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bernie…

Please…don't ever apologize for "rambling" in a comment. Ramble all you want; feel free to speak, to say what's on your heart in whatever roundabout way you like. This is a conversation between friends.

I understand about your dog, about losing a companion that's been so much a part of your life for so long. I know that if I don't go first, Moon the dog, at 12 years old, will not be around for too many more years. It worries and frightens me, fills me with dread—because it is inevitable and I don't want it to happen. I love my dog.

Yet we shouldn't withdraw from life just because the living and loving and caring passionately carry an inherent risk and are sometimes painful.

Now, please understand…I've read a bit of your personal history on your blog—I know you lost your husband, and eventually, though you had the opportunity, chose not to marry a second time. I understand that, too. Sometimes that is the right thing to do—and I don't mean to imply that you were withdrawing then by making that decision.

But I do think getting another dog sounds like a good idea. Don't expect it to replace the other one—and don't judge it by comparison. Dogs, like people, are all different, to be taken on their own merits.

I'm glad you liked this piece about geese and my feelings and connection toward them. When I've grown so old that my heart is no longer stirred by a string of geese in the sky, then I've lived too long.

Bernie said...

Grizz, you have read my heart only to well.....I don't mind really. I have accepted the fact that I have turned away from many opportunities because of the fear of rejection or the pain of being left behind again...once I recognized "my" pattern I have been reading self help books to overcome these shortcomings. I want to live life to the fullest and don't want to ever look back with regrets due to fear.
Thank you my friend for understanding this old lady's heart.......:-) Hugs

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bernie…

Wasn't it Churchill who said, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself."?

Even so, I really wasn't implying anything toward the way you've chosen to live your life following the loss of your husband. I can see—and admire—a love that simply makes future loves a case of settling for second best. Sometimes, you quit when you're on top.

Life is to be lived to the fullest. But with honor and ideals and quality. You have a good heart. Trust it to be your guide. That way, I guarantee you'll never have regrets—and just don't listen to those you make you begin second-guessing your good instincts.