Fifty to a hundred geese are dotting the park. Among them are kids playing soccer, parents watching on, and dog walkers.
The geese visit sporadically, but we’ve seen a large and regular contingent of lately, and the park authorities say their population is increasing across the city—3,500 this year. Lots of park grass and a lack of natural predators, they say. Some park-goers complain the geese are encroaching on human territory, impeding traffic, and pooping where we walk.
I’m wondering if it’s goose-revenge. After all, we were the first to encroach on their land, once teeming with waterways. Our park was once a marsh before it was drained and the geese pushed out, along with the indigenous peoples, who had been getting along fine with the honkers. Ironically, Canadians have adopted the Canada goose as a symbol of our heritage, and we’ve proudly boasted images of geese on tourist literature to welcome in more dollars.
Across the park’s four or five acres, soccer players, dog walkers, and geese are creating space for each other and carrying on like happy campers. The geese have moseyed off, necks craned, heads turning left and right as if watching for traffic, toward one corner of the park near the mammoth willow tree. They pluck at the turf. The soccer goals have been moved slightly to give them room, and the numerous dogs are mostly on leash. I let our little pooch Bernie loose just to see what might happen. He takes off right into the flock, the geese fly up briefly, settle down again, while Bernie runs in circles barking as the geese lift again to let him pass. They seem to be baiting him.
Our neighborhood geese remind us to find ways to live together in a diverse social and environmental community, for the health and well-being of all. This is tough because it requires some patience and creative thinking rather than doing the simple thing—abolishing critters, bush, and trees wherever they get in our way. I watch how the geese are blending in with our human community. If they’ve managed to adapt, why can’t we?
It takes effort to live in harmony in a diverse community. Today I’m surprised how effortless it seems when everyone and everything gives a little. I smile. I’m even grateful for the goose poop, which taught Bernie not to eat it or else get sick. I implore disgruntled residents to be quiet for a moment and take delight in the gorgeous array of shared life. The words of Gerard Manley Hopkins, the finest of English poets, come fresh to mind:
The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil.
. . .
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod.
And all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil
And wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell.
. . .
And for all this, nature is never spent
. . .
because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.
(from “God’s Grandeur”)
I started writing these posts thinking of them as interruptions of grace in the ordinary and mundane events of life.