There is a Canada goose in the park near where I live that was born with a wing that is not fully functional. It was born last May. Early on I noticed a spot on one side where it looks like the wing is incomplete and something is missing.
I have been keeping an eye on this goose for months. One day, last summer or fall, a man I sometimes see at the park was telling me about this goose and how he had observed it since it was young. We sat on a bench and watched for a while as the goose grazed with its parents standing by. I wondered aloud what would happen to it. The man agreed he did not think it would ever be able to fly.
When the seasons started to change, I became worried and wondered how this goose would make it through the cold winter. I said a prayer for its well-being. I looked for it every time I went to the park. For a long while, its parents stayed. I would see the three geese together, grazing and in the water, always side-by-side. Once the pond was mostly frozen, I did not see the parents any more. The lone goose would sit on the edge of the pond under the branches of a small tree where the water was still unfrozen. Sometimes a pair of Mallard ducks were there, too. I would walk by and stop to watch for awhile, curious and concerned about this goose. What did it eat? Did it feel lonely or cold? It tugged at my heart.
A few weeks ago we had a significant snow storm, complete with lightning, thundersnow and somewhere near 16 inches of snow accumulation. A few days later, more snow and ice came. I made it out to the park a couple times, wearing boots and snow pants, making my way through the deep snow and following the tracks of snowshoes and skis. Now the pond was completely frozen over and I did not see the goose. I could not see much of anything except the bright, white snow.
Nearly a week later, as I was walking toward the edge of the pond, I looked up and suddenly saw the goose running over across the ice, flapping its wings. At about the same time, a woman came walking up with bread and corn. She was so excited to see the goose and started talking to it, calling it over. I learned that she and another woman had been taking turns feeding the goose over the winter, but they, too, had not seen it for days and were getting worried. She told me all about it and how she had tried to catch the goose in the fall and take it to a farm for injured geese, but had been unsuccessful. She had been watching over this goose for months, the same as I had been, even more so.
She fed the goose, we chatted for awhile and she went on her way. I sat there for a bit, watching the goose eat and bathe in the little bit of water that was unfrozen. I was feeling touched. Another couple walked over and were equally delighted to see the goose, alive and well after the snow storm. I was moved to tears that so many people cared about this goose and were concerned about its well-being.
I share this story to honor the Canada goose, whose life has touched mine. I also share as a reminder of our capacity to care. The goose's survival was aided by people caring, people bringing it food when the ground and pond were frozen. This is who we are as humans. We have tremendous ability to care about the world around us, the creatures and beings sharing the earth with us, large and small, human and non-human. Sometimes it is easy to forget that, especially when we hear so much about our capacity to do harm and to be heartless. Both are true. We can be cruel and we can be kind. Today, I want to hold up our ability to care deeply about the well-being of another.
I also share this story because it relates to something I have been exploring lately: the perceived need to be perfect. This goose is imperfect and cannot do the things that most geese do. Still, it is cared for. It is surviving. The goose touched my heart and the hearts of others who observed its life. When I imagine being the goose and being cared for even with my imperfections, I release some of my striving for perfectionism and relax a little. I breathe a little more fully.
Since the storm, I have been back to the park several times. After a few warm days, many ducks returned, the ice was melting and some patches of grass were exposed. It warmed my heart to see this. It felt like we made it through the storm. A few days later, it was warm enough that all the snow was gone, the ice was completely melted and the goose's parents had returned to the pond. I sat and watched as the three geese grazed on the shore and then took to the water, paddling across to one of the little islands in the middle.
There may be another snow storm. It is barely March, after all. Somehow, I believe this goose will make it. I have witnessed this mixed community of geese, humans and ducks that come to this park at the edge of two cities and connect and care in sometimes unexpected ways. This is life: we are connected and interconnected in ways we do not always recognize or understand. What we do matters. May we remember our capacity to care.
Katherine Grigg, RSMT is a Registered Somatic Movement Therapist who helps people connect to a deeper part of themselves. She sees clients in West Hartford, CT and teaches occasional classes and workshops in the Greater Hartford area. To view all her offerings and learn more about somatic therapy, a mind-body healing modality, visit her Classes and Workshops and About pages.