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Canadian Geese: Pondering God's Creation, and a poem inviting you to pause...



My return to the northeast has washed over me in unexpected ways. I migrated back here in October after 23 years too far from home. The winding roads of Pennsylvania are difficult to describe, but once you take a drive, you'll respect them too. These roads lean and bend along the rivers. Rocky rivers, that push and sputter against boulders and banks. My car window goes down and I take in the sounds: rushing water mixed with bird songs everywhere. Place is important. For me, these deep roots tangle around who I am.


The Canadian geese migrate back to where they were born, too. And Pennsylvania is a breeding ground for these geese. Walking along, I stop, listen, and look up as six, ten, or 50 appear in flight overhead, announcing their fly-by. They cackle and call in straight lines or long V-shaped angles in the far distance above me. Sometimes they are so low I can hear their wire-wings. I am well aware it is odd to have an affection for these awkward birds. Lots of people hate them. They are messy, aggressive, and loud! They waddle about the fields, paddle around the ponds, and camp out in random parking lots. Whether one likes it or not, in Pennsylvania, we share space with Canadian geese. Recently, someone cringed, “You LIKE them? You are the only person I know who likes them; they poop everywhere!” And they do. It’s a mess. Interestingly, my homecoming has resulted in a stronger appreciation for these birds.


The Springton Reservoir is a large lake behind the property where I grew up. This lake was too big to walk around, though I tried. The sounds of geese hearken me back to that lake. Day and night communicating with each other, hundreds of geese bobbing on the water. On cold nights, snow on the ground, I would sneak out on the back deck under the stars, and listen. I couldn’t see them, but I could hear them. And throughout each season, my wanderings down to the lake for exploration, to think, and be alone, were always mixed with their company. All at once with no warning, their calm would be broken. In a flurry, calling out one to the other, and another to another, and then the entire group, beating their wings, cranking themselves off the water, craning their necks forward to the sky. All of them, lifting off and up; their flight, a hallowed display.


We had a sun-room off the side of our house; its small roof was outside my bedroom window. Early mornings I woke to a pair of geese hanging out on the roof. Initially annoyed, I soon began to find their visits welcoming. Short honks and cackles announced their visits. Quietly, creeping over to the window, I would peer, my eyes just above the sill, to spy on them. I could see the lines on the feathers and their black eyes, alert. The more they visited, the more I grew to love their company.


The entire year, and every year of my growing up, the Canadian geese were there, a part of the landscape, a part of me.


Much to my delight, where I live now, there is a marshy area with grasses and fields. A few pair of geese have made it their territory. All day, every day, they are there. As a mater of fact, there are eight pair of geese I have spotted within a five mile radius of the house. Oh, hear me, there are many more than that in these parts, but I have observed these few who have settled down to nest. I can always count on them to be in their designated boundary.


These birds pause me. I stop and stand still when they fly overhead. In these moments, I am fully present. I look and listen. Their tell-tale calls relieve me from the machine-like aggression of culture, the demand for ongoing productivity to secure our place. Instead, I receive.


Soon after moving back to Pennsylvania, a poem formed in me. An invitation to pay attention, to notice the sounds and sights of natural things. Colors. Songs. Silence. My body, calm; my mind, still. I have learned to take it in. God's creation is meant to delight us. Genesis 2:9 records, “The LORD God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food…” Pleasing to the eye. For the soul first, the body, second. Creation nourishes. When we forget to notice beauty, our lives suffer. Allow God’s grand design to reset you, to call you back to him. The birds can help you:



Recovery


You may have to

Silence the babble

Inside your head.


You may find it helpful to

Protect a few hours

From the clutter of your day.


You should go, get lost

In a daydream,

Or lose track of time

Watching clouds change shape

Above the wheat grass in the field.


Too much of everything has

Stolen time for nothing.


Life rushes onward,

Pushing you down,

Bending over you

Like the great Niagara,

Like a burden

on your back.


So,

You may have to

Look up at the geese

In flight overhead.


It may help if you

Pause while they fly.

It will settle you to

Watch them,

While you stand, unmoved.


Let them carry you

Off into the wide,

Empty sky.

Let the lead goose split the headwind

So you can glide, effortless

Until you land, soft…


Able to see

Able to hear

Able to rest.