Personal Development and Spirituality Topics

with Karen Scheel

Initial Lessons From Geese

After many years of living with the various flocks of Canada geese that come and go to Frog Hollow’s pond, two distinct personalities emerged from the flocks to change a human mind and teach her some things about their species. From day one, my feelings vacillated back and forth between loving and hating these feathered things. My neighbors/friends/landlord’s bird feeding area attracted all kinds of critters, which also included the geese that opted to cross in front of my house to get to this feeding area. The front of my house along with the path to my car became a minefield of slime that always ended up on the bottom of my shoes and was tracked everywhere. Their noise first thing in the morning was another factor that drove me absolutely crazy. Moreover and to make matters worse, I really had some issues with this one goose. S/he seemed to be trying to piss me off even more than I already was. Whenever I walked in or out my front door, this goose became very vocal and would lunge like it was going to attack. I finally reached my breaking point within a matter of weeks. I did not want to deal with these creatures at all, and seriously contemplated a move when images of strangling every goose along with other forms of harm began to dance through my thoughts.

Fortunately, my neighbors/friends decided to follow my recommendation and install a fence to enclose the feeding area. The geese stopped coming and things returned to normal within a matter of days. However, a week had not passed when I was in the process of getting dressed one morning and happened to glance out the bedroom window and saw a solo goose standing on my porch roof. I grumbled at the sight of it. A few minutes later, I walked by the window again and saw a big old egg out there, which stopped me dead in my tracks. I had just come out of goose hell and this egg indicated there was more to come. Aside from putting myself at risk, there was no way of getting that goose or her egg off my roof. I was now being forced to live up close and personal with the very critters I wanted to kill just days before. Not to mention, leaving and entering my home became much more challenging. Turns out, the goose, I had issues with happened to be the mate for the one laying eggs on my roof. Unbeknown to me, he had been protecting their nesting site, which was right over the one and only door to my home. In my mind, this had to be some sort of goose conspiracy, and I hated life at that moment. In short of moving or contracting an exterminator which was not gonna happen, I had to figure out a way to make peace quickly. It was a given we all had to get along – at least until the eggs hatched anyway.

My first attempts with mother goose did not go over well. I decided to give her a bowl of drinking water one afternoon while she was baking in the hot sun. I began talking to her while slowly rolling the window open. She began to hiss. My soft tones and slow movements calmed her. I mistakenly interpreted this illusion of calmness as a sign indicating that it was safe to proceed. I was standing on my tiptoes with the top half of my body leaning completely outside the window, and had just placed the bowl of water close to her nest when she skipped the hissing and let out a honk. Her mate had been nowhere in sight but came flying instantly like a bat out of hell. I heard the rumble of his flapping wings and then this hissing sound close to my ear. Words cannot accurately describe my feelings when my head turned to look up to the roof directly above me to see this hovering open winged shadow leaning out over me with his big black beak inches from my face. I suddenly felt much like an ant encountering a gigantic prehistoric bird. I retreated like a rocket and rolled the window closed as quickly as possible.

This experience of another kind definitely had me taking a step back. I was not as inclined to open my window for the next several days. I found myself waiting until the male was in the water before cracking it open again, but only wide enough for my hand and arm to fit through to drop some whole grain bread crumbs for the female to eat. It took about a week of cautious interaction before both settled down and began to trust me. Her nest was small but it was only after we established a level of trust that I decided to gather some dry grass and attempt opening the window wider than I wanted to throw it out on the roof. Although, approaching my house with this bundle and getting around the male guarding the front door required a bit of a dance. Not to mention, the female freaked when the grass emerged from the window, which inevitably brought the male right up there to defend her and had me reeling for cover.

Initially, the male spent his time flying back and forth from the pond to my house. In addition to protecting the female, he was also protecting a section of the pond from other land squatters looking for any opportunity to move in. This prime pond real estate provided a perfect view of my house and clearly was reserved for the new goslings. Which was another area of concern – I had no clue how the goslings would get off the roof without sustaining injury and was already thinking of possible ways to assist. After trust was established, the male rarely flew up to my house. He frolicked in the pond while the female baked in the hot sun on my roof. After watching him for a while, his regal stance along with his personality reminded me of someone you might refer to as “Sir.” Therefore, I began to call him “Sir Goose” and named the female “Molly.” My relationship with Molly developed smoothly over the course of the coming weeks. She had a sweet gentle personality that reminded me much of a little princess – a perfect match for one Sir Goose. Within a short time, I noticed feelings of respect and appreciation rapidly replacing all previous thoughts of hate towards these critters. There were times when I found myself wondering if Molly had chosen and/or been directed by some unseen force to bypass nesting around the pond in order to help me develop more awareness – to learn more about their lives – which would not have happened had she not nested on my roof…

It was warm enough for my windows to remain open, and Molly was living right outside my bedroom window. I could hear her every move at night and she could hear every sound in my house as well. It was almost as if we were living and sleeping in the same room together. Nesting on the roof kept her eggs safe from our resident fox but they along with the raccoons could still climb the nearby tree. Not to mention, there was always the possibility of a hawk swooping down to challenge her for an egg during the day. Yep, I was a worried mother – feeding her – paying attention to the sky during the day, and maintaining awareness for any unusual sounds during my sleep time at night.

My new found level of respect grew stronger with each passing day. The devotion these critters exhibit for their unborn and for each other is truly incredible. Even though Sir Goose was nowhere near Molly, he maintained an uncanny awareness for everything going on around my house – nothing escaped him. I witnessed several occasions when he appeared to be oblivious while swimming in the pond, but if the faintest sound came from Molly (or me) he did an instant about face and was ready to fly. It was also amazing to watch the level of dedication Molly demonstrated for her eggs. Incubation lasts for one month. Other than a few minutes soon after sunrise for a little pond time, Molly sat on that nest for 24/7. I also do not recall her eating very much during this time either. The gentle and loving way she cared for those eggs touched my heart. She spent her days and nights rotating her body around the nest along with methodically turning, and repositioning each egg just so. Before leaving in the mornings for her bath, she spent more time covering her eggs with her down feathers than she actually spent on the pond. What became apparent as I observed the life of the goose species was many a human being certainly could learn a few lessons from them. Too many pregnant women do not take good care of themselves, and are extremely stressed, which must affect the fetus growing within. Additionally and as the high levels of divorce reflect, most human couples are not as deeply connected as the geese – they do they know how to communicate – nor do they demonstrate much respect for each other. I wondered what this world might be like if more human parents were as present and worked together to take better care of their young. Ironic how most of us believe animals are inferior, especially when they demonstrate some essentials lacking within the majorities of the superior human species. Go figure.

The weeks were passing quickly. We were in the closing stretch of incubation when a few construction workers showed up to leave some tools for work beginning on my house after the Mother’s Day weekend. Sir Goose flew up and was outside screaming. I went to the door to check on him and saw a few startled men stopped dead in their tracks with one or two backing away. This made me giggle, and I pointed to Molly to let them know this ranting goose had no interest in hurting them and was only protecting his family. I had forgotten about this appointment but the stress for Molly and Sir Goose was a concern. My neighbor friend initially laughed when I suggested that we should maybe postpone this work until after the eggs hatched. I had been very serious with my request but also saw the humor in how these men might respond if asked to wait on a goose! That night Sir Goose joined Molly on the roof and stood guard for the first time. In the middle of the night, a loud thud sound with one sharp honk awakened me – I heard some grumbles. I initially thought a raccoon or fox was around. I listened to the rustle in the ferns and jumped out of bed to get to the window just in time to see Sir Goose reappear to resume his guard duties. I cracked up laughing. He must have been standing too close to the edge when he had fallen asleep. The image of him falling off the roof had me laughing myself back to sleep. Sir Goose stood guard for a second night, and managed to remain on the roof this time. On Mother’s Day, I went to the window to say good morning. The nest was empty – all eggs were gone. I quickly pulled the screen and leaned out the window to survey the pond – two very proud parents with their young were all in the water.

What is interesting is shortly after the eggs hatched, I learned geese could either speed up or slow the hatching process down. The construction crew showing up along with my growing concern must have alerted the parent geese. Sir Goose and Molly must have known they needed to clear out – they must have communicated something to each other. Additionally, Molly must have communicated this to her young because the incubation period still had another five to seven days to go. It takes 24-48 hours for chicks to crack their shells open, and these young ones obviously went to work on cracking their way out soon after the construction crew appeared. Within 48 hours and on Mother’s day, the geese eliminated their surrogate mother’s growing concerns with their departure gift.

After Molly left, I felt like I was going through a bit of an empty nest syndrome. I missed her enriching presence on my roof. Our paths had clearly separated. My life returned to normal while Molly and Sir Goose raised their young on the pond. Geese normally return to the same nesting sites every year. However, my old roof was under construction the following year, and after its replacement, there was not any debris from the nearby tree to build anything. Therefore, I believed Molly and Sir Goose were long gone and had found a better nesting site – until a Trio appeared on my roof two years later.