Posted by: Memorizing Nature | July 20, 2010

Flying Alone

My mate lay by my side, bleeding from a gunshot wound. I swore that as long as he breathed, I wouldn’t desert him. We were together for life. Meanwhile, the migration couldn’t be delayed. Back and forth, spring and fall; the route of the flyway is written in our feathers. I watched our flock soar off in its ‘V’ formation to the northern breeding ground, and mourned myself to sleep.  

"Back and forth, spring and fall; we are the ones who change the seasons." (Photo by E. Medline)

Not so long ago, Canada geese had almost disappeared. Now we are numerous once again, and you think of us as pests, like mosquitoes. 

It was not easy to take flight alone. My wings tired quickly, so I landed on an island to rest, and ended up staying there. No chance of making it all the way to the summering area of my youth. After awhile, a single gander came along – he was a widower – and we patiently courted. Our nest was built of twigs and moss and pine needles. To soften the cradle, I plucked feathers from my own neck.   

You are disgusted with our droppings, but you feed us in your parks. You cut your grass short, and we like short grass. You blame us for getting entangled in your big honking jet engines, which we do our best to avoid. But the sky is a territory, and it belongs to birds. Humans elected to walk on earth, to take comfort in gravity. You got the opposable thumb while we grew wings.

"Back and forth, spring and fall; the route of the flyway is written in our feathers." (Photo by E. Medline)

I laid six ivory eggs. My new mate and I protected the nest for a month, hissing and flapping at the odd predator. Yes, we can be scary – (not really!) The babies hatched, their egg-teeth pecking from the inside. They were chatty. Gradually they matured, losing their olive-fur adorableness, gaining competence. Our goslings foraged constantly to build strength for the return migration. Back and forth, spring and fall; we are the ones who change the seasons.   

You gas us. You beat us. You used to admire our white chinstraps and long necks. Our distinctive calls. You used to be amazed by our majesty.

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  1. Elaine: I like your writings very much….perspective and prose equally…thoughtful and sensitive, but underneath it all, very forceful.

    You probably know this, but did you know Wawa is an Aboriginal onomatapoeic (sp?) name; it is directly in a major north-south Canada Goose flyway. The First Nations figured out whose strip it really was, didn’t they?

  2. Elaine, love your fresh approach and poetic perspective! Write on!

  3. Very poignant. It is interesting to think of how our relationships to different species change over time. I am still amazed by the majesty of the Canada goose.

    However, I would argue with the position taken by the goose that she and her mate are not really scary. I have been in a solo canoe that was capsized by a pair who were protecting a nest on a gravel bar I was floating by, innocuously, minding my own business. You haven’t lived until you’ve been flogged by a goose while you are trying to rescue your equipment and capsized canoe in the middle of a deep pool in the river. . .not scary my foot. Majestic and terrifying indeed!.

  4. Thanks for sharing – I like it a lot!

  5. I guess I am one of those who does not like Canada Geese. But your photos and story are lovely. I might change my mind. 🙂

  6. I ‘ve read an article that describes the unity of the geese as they fly across country. It is an amazing lesson for us humans. They rotate leading the way because the lead goose tires quicker. They don’t leave a wounded or sick one behind – another stays behind with them. It is amazing example of God’s desire for His children – to be unified and work together as one.

  7. […] “Flying Alone,” Memorizing Nature: Fantastical Yet Critical Writings by Elaine Medline. […]

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