Tuesday, February 26, 2008


A good friend recently remarked that the geese of Clement Park have become like characters in the "story" of my daily walks with Duncan. I have done battle with them, chastised them, mocked them, faced direct attacks from them and lived to tell about it. My own grandmother commented that my hostility toward them was not in my character and she was disappointed because she thought I "loved all creatures." It was a humbling moment and I was forced to pause and try to look at them with a more tender eye, but hours later, as I was struggling to keep Duncan from devouring their green tootsie-roll droppings and then scraping those very same morsels from the bottom of my boots, I shrugged it off and decided that I do love all creatures. All creatures except geese.

They have been gathering in greater numbers all over Littleton, not just in my park but across the athletic fields at school, along the shores of every lake in the vicinity, even in the streets where they often force traffic to come to a standstill. This afternoon I watched a flock of nearly a hundred soar overhead, their bodies huffing and waging war against gravity. I stood in awe on the sidewalk listening to their barking calls and had to marvel at their ability to leave the ground at all. In flight they are wondrous, almost shocking; on the ground they are varmints.

But today, coming home from the park, making an uncharacteristic crossing at the intersection of Bowles and Pierce, we saw a lone goose, which had misplaced the rest of its flock, had stopped the traffic as it tried to decide which direction to go. Duncan, who has spent much of our winter time chasing them, barking them off the ground, strained on the leash and whined. Traffic had begun to back up with drivers anxious to get home after a long day. Each time the poor bird took a few steps one way, the cars edged further forward until finally it was crowded on nearly all sides. The goose, its black eyes wide, looked back and forth, its body turning to match the direction of its head. There was panic and confusion in its eyes and I could almost feel the anxiety that was certainly flooding its body. It did not honk but made slight, whispery chirps, low and cautious, as though it was trying to talk itself through the situation, a trick I have used many times during anxiety attacks. You're not dying. You're not dying. Oh, please let me not be dying. I watched, wishing it would simply run down the center of the road, flap its long wings and jump into the air, but geese need a runway and there simply wasn't enough room. It turned and turned again and my own heartbeat began to quicken. Finally, when I was sure an angry Juicy Bun in an SUV would simply run it over, it squeezed between the cars and began to navigate its way to safety. The sound of its voice rose until it was no longer muttering under its breath but actually cursing the cars which had surrounded it. It finally crossed the street into the park, its head turning quickly side to side as if seeking out another goose, or any bird––maybe even a squirrel for that matter––to confide in. "Did you see that? I thought I was a goner for sure. A million times Mathilda has told me not to play in the street, but did I listen? Certainly not. Will I tell her she was right? Certainly not! Come on, Larry, let's go get a beer!"

I won't soon forget the look in its eyes, so lost and so frightened. Nor will I forgive its invasion of my playground, but perhaps my heart has opened up a little. No creature functions well solo.


Ruth said...

I love the idea of the goose trying to talk itself through the situation. What would it be saying?

Ruth said...

Have I told you that Dave calls geese a "weed species"?

Traci said...

All creatures except geese...and Murphy. :)