When I think about advice not taken, ‘don’t feed the geese’ could, under some circumstances, make the list. ‘Clean your plate.’ ‘Never burn a bridge.’ ‘Don’t make waves.’ ‘Be a good loser.’ ‘Don’t go out with wet hair.’ ‘Only loan books you don’t want back.’ Advice. Well-intended but not always welcome. Wanted but not always followed. Followed — but imperfectly or not under the right circumstances. You get it: advice can be a slippery slope.
You may remember my earlier goose posts: after discovering that neighbors had been running them over for sport, my husband and I made a safe place for them. In all honesty, had I foreseen the destruction of plants and the mess near our dock, I might have thought better of the plan. But here I was — sad and angry — shooting straight from a heart that still can’t understand why someone would hurt an innocent.
Why Would Someone Hurt an Innocent?
For several summers I watched them: the return, the hatchlings, the lessons. And, while I had always loved to hear them, high overhead, singing their way to the next destination, there was something about living with them. I saw their personalities and their habits, and I learned to love them.
I learned that they make a distinction between “people” and “our people.” And, quite by accident, I discovered I should probably do the same thing.
Back when Favorite Husband and I were trying to decide whether we wanted to stay in New Hampshire or move to an island in northeast Florida, I learned something most of you know: Canada geese are wild.
Canada Geese Are Wild
At the time, we had a beautiful old chocolate Labrador retriever. He was, by then, severely diabetic and was almost blind as a result. As a result, when we expected to be away from the house for more than an hour, we packed the dogs into their crates so they could be with us.
On this particular occasion, Favorite Husband was practicing a martial art. I don’t remember why I needed or wanted to go along, but I had a book and my dogs. I was happy.
Eventually, I decided the old man (the dog, not the husband) needed to stretch his legs a bit. As we rounded the backside of the dojo, I was delighted to see a pair of Canada geese. I think they were my first since arriving in Florida. Seeing them, a fictional loop in my head was complete— our geese really did go south for the winter!
The pair should have been a clue — there are very few times I ever saw a single pair of wild geese. It was rare enough that I should probably have substituted “nesting pair.” As the dog and I wandered happily toward them, they responded — not as the friends I had in my head but as someone protecting their soon-to-be babies from a home invasion. I didn’t know that old dog could still move so fast, but we made a safe escape.
And that little encounter may have something to do with my ongoing ignorance about the behavioral patterns of Canada geese in northeast Florida. For a while, I didn’t see many of them. For a while I missed them. Then I stopped thinking about them.
Don’t Forget Your Loved Ones
When someone has a place deep in your heart, it’s not wise to forget them. Last week two large families of geese wandered up our street to play in the post-downpour puddles. I was a little too glad to see them, took some pictures, and, once again, didn’t give another thought. So yesterday, while leaving the auto parts store, I was a little surprised to see seven or eight of them.
I was even more startled when they got close enough that I could hear them grunting and gurgling. They continued walking toward me. Opening the car door didn’t slow them at all — in fact, their behavior was a bit more like dogs wanting to take a ride than the standoffish Florida-Canada geese I’d come to know and avoid. And, while I’m pretty sure these aren’t our New Hampshire geese, there’s one thing I know for sure.
Somewhere on this island is another person who ignores advice: somebody is feeding the geese. And I’m delighted.