Saturday, January 19, 2008


Finally, it seems, the cold has broken, or pushed eastward, and has been replaced with more typical Denver weather. The day was sunny and clear, with a solid blue sky and a sun that was warm and bright, casting big yellow squares on the carpet beneath my windows. The cats, who have spent most of the past week huddled together on the pillows in the bedroom, or wedged together in a tight, three-headed ball on the couch, claimed their favorite spots–Pip in the office under the avocado tree, while Winnie and Olive spread out under the big windows in the dining room, their tails occasionally tapping ends. Duncan, who could not seem to believe I chose to spend the day doing some much needed cleaning, sat in front of the patio doors, looking out across Bowles at the park. While I busied myself with the broom and the mop, he'd turn my way, sigh loudly, throw himself down on his belly and pout. When I figured he'd die if I didn't let him out, I leashed him up, donned my boots and took him out.

It was an uneventful walk, occupied by ball throwing, a little retrieving, a fair amount of slipping on the snow and ice, and a healthy fill of rolling in the powder, which, under the reinvigorated sunshine, was quickly growing wet and heavy. It wasn't until we spotted the flock of geese–maybe fifty of them in all–up in the northeast corner of the park on the low hillside where they'd not only flattened and melted the snow under the warm weight of their bodies, but had polluted it as well with their slimy, green Tootsie Roll-sized poop. Duncan froze. I froze. We watched them for a moment. I tightened my grip on his leash and we moved slowly forward.

One or two of the bigger males standing guard on the perimeter of the flock noticed our cautious advanced and barked out a warning to the others. Within moments they were all standing and their tiny heads swiveled on their absurdly long necks to watch us. Duncan took calculated steps forward and I stayed at his side until we were within distance.

"Are you ready?" I asked. He glanced in my direction only briefly then leaned forward pulling on his leash. It was all the signal I needed. "Get them," I whispered and we shot forward.

The geese were waiting, and honestly, in the chunky snow and ice we were slow enough to present little danger to them. Yet up they shot, their wings beating heavily in the air, their honks loud in the air around us. We stopped at the base of the hill, safe from stepping in their messes, and watched them circle over our heads, calling down curses at us from above. They flew to the south and part of the flock broke off and headed west toward the lake, honking as they went.

"Good boy," I said to Duncan and patted his head, and just as we turned away, the sound of the geese grew louder all around us. I looked south and saw a second flock rise up from the volleyball courts to meet the one we'd disturbed. They merged, turned west where they met up with their other half. Moments later the calls grew louder still as another flock took to the air and circled back around. We stopped where we stood and watched as every goose in the park took to the air, circling and circling, calling up even more of them. Within minutes we saw what I imagine was a flock of nearly three hundred geese flying over Bowles toward the golf course, the sound of their voices loud and awkward, like the voices of teenage boys in a choir.

Duncan's tail wagged and I scratched behind his ears. "Good job," I told him. We had driven out the invaders, every last one of them. He looked at my hand, which still clutched his snow-slick tennis ball. Our work was done, but there was still throwing and retrieving that needed tending to.

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