Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Day the Geese Came Back

As I trucked the recycling out to the curb, I was thinking about what today's most amazing thing might be. I considered, briefly, the last patch of gravelly ice lying in the driveway, its amazing longevity aided by the shade of the big spruce tree. I looked up into the sky and saw a pair of jets arcing overhead. Today's atmospheric conditions don't favour long streaming jet trails, because each of them had only that little lenticular exhaust that I associate with rockets from 50's comic strips. Its pretty amazing that we can get up in those things and just fly across to Europe or Asia or Toronto anytime we have the time and money. (Let's not get into the morality of it just now.)
After the recycling and a cup of coffee, it was time for the obligatory dogwalk. I decided to go down to the point today. Its one of my favourite walks, but takes a good hour, especially if you stop to take pictures, or to sit on the rocks by the shore when you get there. At this time of year, its good to get out earlyish, when the sun has warmed the air, but has not yet turned the track into a sea of slippery mud. Today, I'd timed it just right. The footing was not iron-hard, and not gooey. It had the consistency of still warm fudge, nice and soft to walk on, but stable.
I heard them before I saw them. Honk doesn't really cover the range of noises that come out of a skein of three hundred or so Canada Geese on the move. There's prattling, gargling, squawking, squealing, creaking. Its an incredible noise. This group was so large that the V had branches, and there was a stealthy little secondary vee inside the big vee, catching a draft on the wake of three hundred pairs of wings. I wondered what all that noise is about. Are they callling out directions to one another? Arguing about place? "Hey Buddy, I was here first, get in line!" Maybe each squawk is necessary to make the most out of a wing beat. Geese are pretty big. Maybe they need a kiyup like a tai kwan do fighter just to stay airborne? Or maybe they're shouting encouragement to one another. "C'mon guys, only 3ooo more clicks to Happy Valley/Goose Bay!" Or maybe its just gossip, cause that's a pretty long trip. Maybe they need something to do to pass the time. I just looked up the etymology of "gossip" to see if maybe it was related to geese, but sadly, it doesn't seem to be.
Seeing all those geese was another harbinger of spring, but to see them followed in wave after wave of skeins of a similar size was really thrilling. Talk about a wall of sound! Mind you, I think the small skeins are almost as noisy. Incongrously, I thought about how glad I was that they weren't squadrons of enemy aircraft. Paranoid? Possibly. I tried to take their picture but failed miserably. It reminded me of my friend John, a landscape painter who once, for a joke, painted a pair of webbed feet in the sky at the top edge of a failed painting, and exhibited it, entitled "You've got to be fast to paint ducks". He sold it for several hundred dollars, presumably to someone with a sense of humour!
When we got down to the point, there was a welcome flash of blue at the shoreline, where really thin ice, that would be water by noon, was reflecting the sky. The thicker rotten ice beyond was dull grey, riddled with tiny holes at the surface that took away its ability to be anything but dingy. Here I heard another noise I associate with the coming of spring, the challenging calls of redwing blackbirds (called affectionately in our family "Ge-bleees"). For me, even more than the first robin, this is the marker that spring is REALLY here. Robins are always pushing the envelope, and they've been known to be wrong before, but redwing blackbirds always get it right.
On the way home, I took some shots of beautiful ice formations in the puddles. I figured it might be one of the last chances for this spring. Amen to that!

1 comment:

  1. I love your descriptions of the geese...I saw a big V yesterday...you do hear them before you see them coming! I bet that they are arguing to each other whether or not the humans are little mice!