Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
The world offers itself to your imagination.
Calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting,
Over and over announcing your place in the family of things.
– Wild Geese, Mary Oliver
All alone in an early afternoon, from the front seat of our car, I watch as the two Canada geese, Branta canadensis, slowly walk up the small hill from the bay to the cage. Here the female moves forward and the male, wing dangling, struts at a distance – ever wary. Eventually she leaves and he takes a turn nibbling on frozen corn and peas outside and just inside the cage. They are elegant and strategic. I think a trust is growing. I smile while the stomach clenches.
Here at the bay, the water freezes in great rotating arcs. The moving water that travels through the thrum of the hydro plant and falls over old rocks and tree limbs orchestrates a mixing, a slow blending of deep blue and icy white. It whirls against the land where kayaks and canoes were launched in the warmer days, it nudges the shrubs on the sides and flows within the sight of those living on higher ground above the mighty Canadian Mississippi. The churning is slowing as it is covered by winter – a time of quiet contemplation in a year of rollercoaster velocities and unknowns.
And there are the geese. The last geese of the year, a mated couple near defeat from a wing that won’t work and a season that won’t wait.
I had been watching them for a few days at that point, wondering at their lingering in our most comfortable town like so many do these days. Then a wing bent funny, toward the earth in an unnatural way – like that of an angel. An angel wing. This one would not make the journey high over rivers, rooftops and rising temperatures to green-scapes down south.
Community can be in the street, face-to-face, and a social media thing. A simple message about the feathered residents in the bay and contacts were provided that just might be able to help.
We called every suggestion for help – avian organizations in the nearby city that operate on small and particular budgets with passionate volunteers but none to send out to the valley in a time when birds are having adventures left right and centre while pandemic “bubbles” keep volunteers at bay. But solid suggestions were put forward: provide food, find trust then catch them. Catch them. Circle them and throw blankets. Uh huh. The urge to help is overwhelming at moments like this.
There came a day when the geese were no where to be seen … and I felt relief. Relief and belief that either nature had found a way or that someone else had taken them for care. Mostly, I felt relief that a self-imposed responsibility could be extinguished and I could walk away. Not good thoughts, the type that worried my brain late in the evenings. Oh, the things we learn about ourselves when in the wee hours of the morning.
But they came back. Must have been sight-seeing down the river.
And then an email appeared from a newbie in the area who had been putting a home in place nearby. “Welcome to the neighbourhood” I said after listening to how this full-time transportation employee and family had chosen our town to grow and to provide rescue services of all feathered friends. Are you kidding me? This had to be a harbinger of the gifting season and a chance for geese, without the goose being cooked. The cage, a refuge with food, was put in place. Action and growing trust continues.
And there was a gal from the valley, who works with dogs for the blind – another good soul – who watched the pair with us and would eventually donate a huge sack of corn. Avian dining continues.
Then a woman, living near the bay and willing to keep an eye on the situation and provide sheets if needed. Care continues.
While at one of the beloved local cafés, a barista suggested we get in a boat, maybe a canoe or what about a wetsuit and a board? But there is the frigid water and oh yes, the moving ice. Suggestions continue.
This winter’s tale is still in the telling, not ended yet. It may be that this pair are content in the bay for the season. Maybe they’re helping to carry us through the winter ahead. We will hope for the best for the garden we all play in is large and you’re never alone.
Happy solstice all – some gifts, like hope, don’t need wrapping.