Friday, November 11, 2011

A Lone Goose.

I heard the honk from the sky and I didn’t think much of it. After all, geese are quite a gabby group, always honking to each other on land, water or in the air. It makes me wonder what they are all taking about all the time. I hear them honking loudly on the lake almost every day.

In the spring, I can see they’re defending their nesting territory, announcing births and protecting the goslings swimming around them. In the summer, it’s flight school time. I hear nervous parents honking warnings to goslings learning to fly and flight trainers calling out the flight path and landing patterns to the group. In the fall, large v-shaped groups of geese fly above honking loudly in continuous cacophonous discussions. I see the clashing of opinions about landing sights and wind directions as the geese formations shift and move across the sky.

But today, the honking is different. It is not a group, but one goose. The honk sounds once, twice, then silence. I stop, listen and go to the window but I’m too late to see the goose flying by. As I sit back down in my chair to write, I remember what I learned about geese years ago. Geese are very social birds. They live, eat, protect and train their goslings together. They nest in the same area where they were born. There are resident geese and migrating geese. Resident geese, like the ones at my neighborhood park fly 200 miles or less from pond to pond for food, but go back home. Migrating geese flying in ‘V’ formation travel as much as 3,000 miles from their spring nesting place to the winter shelter together honking all the way. I can imagine the discussion, “Are we there yet?” and “The food looks good, let’s stop there.” Geese are an organized, intelligent and social group. They have leaders and followers and teachers, too. And if they see a gosling out of line, even if it’s not theirs, they quickly give it a poke in the right direction. Yup, you guessed it, that’s where the phrase, ‘goosed’, comes from. Unlike ducks, geese mate for life. Once paired, they find a nest, defend it, and share hatching duties. Every year, over and over, for life.

When I heard that one goose flying alone and honking alone, I knew. This goose was alone. What happened to the mate? It could be many things, illness, attack from a predator, an accident between them and us. It doesn’t really matter what happened, because it doesn’t make the loss any less. I looked up at the empty sky, thanking the universe that my own mate is safe, blessing the goose on its lonely fall journey. And I nod my head, seeing that geese and humans may not be so different after all.

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