It’s always the geese that give me away.
Every time a new season arrives, each with its own day-to-day delights, I find myself thinking THIS is the season I like best. Spring, with the arrival of the birds, and the tiny flower stalks erupting from the soil; summer, lush with abundance, balmy temps that mean coming and going without vast wardrobe changes; winter, with its landscape-muting snowfalls and stark, photogenic landscapes. Each one is so special, and each one I love fiercely when I’m in the midst of it.
Then fall arrives, and the geese begin to fly, and my heart leaps in a way it doesn’t move for any other season. It’s a poignant season of goodbyes, but with such beauty in those farewells! There’s a wildness to it, and even a loneliness. Flowers droop and fade, birds flock and fly away, trees shout their last hurrah in blazing color before slipping into hibernation. Some people even say the changes bring on melancholy.
Not for me, though. I love the colors of the leaves and the crisp crackle as we walk through them. I love the acorns collecting on the ground in the park, and the knowledge that my garden-weeding days are over. I love not having to sweat with the slightest exertion, and the switch to snuggly PJs and fleece-lined slippers.
But above all, I love the geese. It starts with the ones who live right here,
who spend time on Dunlap Reef or along Little Lake, flying low overhead from one place to the next. As summer wanes, they begin their training flights, morning and evening, flying almost randomly, strengthening their flight muscles and teaching the young ones about formation and wind draft and the cooperative effort of getting to a kinder climate.
These geese are flying low, flying local, like the small private planes that zip around from the county airport. If they had leg bands, I’d almost be able to see them. They’re a prelude to what comes next.
Last week I heard it, ever so faintly, the “bark” of a distant pack, but no pack at all really. The migrating flock of geese was so high overhead I’d not have seen them without searching, and I’d not have recognized them without the telltale V. These
geese are as unconcerned with our little town and little bay as are the big jets that trace contrails across our sky. They’ve come from far away, they’re going farther still. They’re about the business of migration and the avoidance of winter.
I wonder if they’re a siren song to our geese, the ones who will soon rise higher, and fly longer, and slip away from the local scene until spring calls them back.
I wonder, too, if their appeal is to what’s within me, the remnant of the nomadic hunter-gatherer at the far beginnings of my ancestral line. Maybe the reason I love autumn isn’t so much the colors or the change, but that I can hear the geese calling my name. Maybe that leap of my heart is genetic, ancestral and ancient.