Grief and the Geese

I lived in a beautiful, rural location on a dirt road next to a pond on top of a mountain, far more idyllic than isolating. It was a great place to live and to write. The pond itself provided plenty to watch — its various stages of liquid and solid and back again. Mirror-like reflections. Textures of the ice. Although spread quite far out, neighbors came together in late winter for an annual  “penguin plunge” and cookout. I’ll admit I was one of the people who waited for our spring-fed water feature to warm up — a lot — before going in.

Like any large, healthy body of water this one was home to some wonderful wildlife: fish, turtles, ducks, loons and, of course, the Canada geese. They came and went, announcing their arrival and departure with what I consider a beautiful song. From time to time they slowed our dirt road’s twice-a-day “traffic” with the strutting and waddling it took to migrate from their nesting area to the water’s edge.

[bctt tweet=”The Canada geese came and went, announcing their arrival and departure with a beautiful song.” username=”AndreaPatten”]

I spent a lot of time on that dirt road. Whenever it was time to take a break — or sometimes just for fun — I took time to walk that dirt road. Sometimes aimlessly, sometimes purposefully, with dogs and without. I took photographs. I enjoyed the sites and sounds. It smelled of balsams and of forest must. I found it both inspiring and peaceful. For a long time, it was a place I thought was free of violence.

[bctt tweet=”I’m sure I’ll be accused of anthropomorphizing if I call it grieving, but that’s exactly what it was.” username=”AndreaPatten”]

That image was shattered the day I found one of these magnificent geese, flattened beside the road. Given the location of the body, it was clear that someone had quite deliberately driven off the road, specifically to kill it. I was heartsick and couldn’t get the situation out of my head — especially when for days after I could see its partner hovering and pacing nearby. I’m sure I’ll be accused of anthropomorphizing if I call it grieving but that’s exactly what it was. I spent days wrestling with the need to take some sort of action. But how does one memorialize a goose?

Part of my outrage was the idea that geese had been nesting here long before there were humans. Rational humans who lived around the pond knew that we were on the flight path. But what kind of irrationality, ignorance,  or rage would provoke someone to drive onto the grassy shoulder in order to murder an innocent animal? And although directed at an animal, that violence shattered something in me… something about our peaceful place. Something about safety.

[bctt tweet=”Although directed at an animal, that violence shattered something in me… something about our peaceful place. Something about safety.” username=”AndreaPatten”]

Eventually, it came to me that perhaps it was not a memorial that was needed but sanctuary: a place of refuge. But how would we accomplish that? There was a will — a will to find a way.

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  • Suzie Cheel

    So sad to read that people would intentionally roadkill a gesse, i feel for you and you took me back to my childhood at the botton of the mountain and the woodcutters cottage we regualrly visited and when kangaroos jumped into the front yard. xxx

  • Vatsala Shukla

    It must have been a very sad person who was cruel enough to drive off the road and kill the goose, Andrea. When we noticed a drop in migratory birds in New Delhi, sanctuaries were created and a drive to encourage the public to do bird watching (to raise awareness) and lots of other initiatives. We even declared the humble House Sparrow our city’s bird.

    Some good happened and after many years, I saw lots of House Sparrows in the garden that I hadn’t seen in over a decade.

    Animals do grieve on the loss of their loved ones. I’ve seen my dachshunds grieve at the loss of their family members and having to take the day off from work to comfort them. I’ve even seen birds looking for their little ones after cats have had them for a meal.

    We need to find a way to provide a safe haven for our friends from the Animal Kingdom.

  • Rachel Kieffer

    I was outraged with you Andrea, one of the things i cannot tolerate is cruelty towards animals. I can understand it comes from people who have been wounded and in need of healing but it is hard for me to have sympathy…

  • barbparcellswritingalife

    Actually, geese really do grieve, as do swans and even crows. And we should all be grieving when death is tragic and senseless. What humans don’t seem to understand is that the animals and the birds were all here long before we got here, and will be here long after we’re gone. I hope you find a way to do what you’ve set out to do.