When I was growing up we lived on what might be called a gentleman's farm. I always say that with a bit of a laugh. In my mind this conjures up a vision of the English countryside and a man wearing a riding outfit or something equally elegant. My father, while well educated and well read, could not be further from that vision. We had a lot of rocks (it was, after all, Vermont), a lot of trees, an old, empty barn foundation, a chicken coop, a lean-to for the pony and donkey and some rickety parts of the house that had clearly been added on after the original had been built in 1840. These parts had been added much, much later ... say 1940. They were not up to code, so to speak. In one of those old, rickety outer rooms we kept a flock of geese. We also had chickens, a pony, a donkey, turkeys on occasion, sheep, and much later a small herd of cows (Scottish Long Horns). My brother also kept bees for a couple of years. We cut most of the wood we needed to heat our home in the winter and were fairly self-sufficient for a number of years. It's hard work.
I learned quite a bit about geese when we kept them; enough that I now have a healthy respect for them. I'm not fond of domesticated geese at all; they poop everywhere and they can be mean as snakes. But I love to watch wild geese come and go in their annual migrations. They are quite beautiful, but shy and reticent. The Canadian geese often winter here in Virginia and then fly north for the summer.
If you've ever watched a goose on the ground, it's a marvel that they can become airborne at all. When you consider that they fly hundreds of miles each year to nest and reproduce, the marvel becomes that much greater. On the ground, geese are bumbly and awkward, with round waddly bodies that must move slowly and pedantically across the ground. But if you put them in the water, they become graceful, clean and smooth. Or with great flapping strides they become airborne and once again graceful, clean and smooth.
They are a flocking creature. They don't do well on their own. Goslings bond with the first creature they see upon hatching from the egg. Even if it's not the actual mother goose! So they live in fairly closely knit groups. Those groups expand and contract depending on the needs of the season and what the geese are doing at the time. The adult geese watch over the goslings pretty zealously. Even those who are not parents. There is a pond near our house which geese frequent and sometimes there are goslings growing up on this pond. It's fun to watch the mom take the babies out for a spin. Other adults will form a line of defense between any humans and the goslings and watch ... first the humans, then the goslings, then the humans, then the goslings. Until the goslings are finally finished, then the adults break ranks, fall out and go elsewhere.
It's also quite interesting to watch these birds fly in their migratory pattern. The well-known "V" of geese flying north or south to nesting and/or feeding grounds is legendary in our culture. But it's not a true "V." I marvel that geese do not have one leader. They have several, or perhaps each goose or gander leads at one or more times during the trip. The lead goose has the most difficult task of breaking the wind for all the others. When one gets winded, s/he falls back and another takes his/her place. Some geese are more gifted for certain types of weather or wind patterns than others. The point is this, all the geese know where they are going (which is fairly miraculous in and of itself) and they follow each other by turns.A study done in the last few years showed that the geese could get 70% further using this method of drafting than by flying separately or using one sole leader. There is no jostling for position. Leading is hard work and dangerous. It is the most difficult part of the journey for each goose. They each take their turn of service and then fall back when their season/turn is finished. They are not in it for power or glory or money; they are just trying to get themselves and their brethren to the next resting place on their journey.
I wrote most of this almost a year ago … this musing on geese and their ways.Shortly after I wrote it, I discovered that the wild goose is used as a symbol for the Holy Spirit in Celtic Christian mythos.To the Celts (who peopled the British Isles of the 5th and 6th centuries) it was not the calm, quiet, peaceful dove which exemplified the traits of the Holy Spirit, but the loud, honking insistence of the wild goose which best personified the spirit at work in their midst.
The Spirit is given many different forms in the Bible … dove, flame, comforter.All are valid for obvious reasons.But as I meditate on how geese interact with one another and how they fly, I wonder what it would be like to follow the Wild Goose.To view the Holy Spirit as a goose and learn to dance with the geese, in and amongst them; dropping back, moving forward, listening to the wind call my name.It would be an adventure to be sure.I’m guessing that there would be times when my wings would get very tired, but there would also be times when others would face the wind for me.The fellow geese in the flock all honk encouragement to each other on the long journey and stay in touch.I wonder what it would be like to learn how to fly, how to swim, how to waddle … how to dance with the geese.
Sonja is a daughter of Eve, grand-daughter of Sarah and Abraham, follower of the way of Jesus, wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, writer, quilter, artist and homeschooler and on odd days I blog. I've walked the planet for 47 years now and I'm still wondering what I will be when I grow up. I am married, one daughter, one son, one dog, one cat, two cars ... one mundane suburban life. But every little bit of love can change the world and I'm banking on that.
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