Lament for the Solitary Goose

canadian goose

We’re not sure if the goose is dead at first, but we have a sinking feeling that it’s probably so. The gray body is still on the water of our backyard pond, the black-feathered head stretched out at an angle to the side. It’s mate stays a short distance away, restless, watching over.

It’s the second week of summer in Minnesota – if not on the calendar itself, at least in the temps and the sunshine and in our winter-brittle bones. I’ve been on the deck all day every day since the first time the sun warmed the bare earth to the mid-seventies. I’ve been watching as the leaves slowly emerge, followed by the buds. This week, the lilacs bloomed at last, and I’ve gathered them in bunches and put them all over our house.

It’s my favorite time of year. I sit in the sun, and I feel the warmth like a kind of healing after all those months of barren winter cold.

These are the days when I want to crank up the country music station loud and sing along about beaches and beers and tan lines and pickup trucks. I want to put another burger on the grill, drink another glass of sangria, sit by the fire pit late into the night and forget about the darkness under the expanse of the stars.

And yet.

The goose still hasn’t moved, and so Andrew and Dane take out the paddleboat. Before long, they’re headed back, shepherding the still body of a lone Canadian goose with the net they brought along for turtle catching.

The abandoned mate blares from the middle of the pond, a steady mournful beat – not so much a song as a dirge, an ugly cry. His call blasts all day, long after Andrew’s removed the dead body and disposed of its remains. After I’ve filled the baby pool and hauled out my raft so that I can lay in the cool water and feel the sun. It pierces through the summer serenity with the loudness of grief.

Geese mate for life.

It’s the second week of summer, and for me, it feels like a season of healing. The sudden debilitating relapse of Depression has been set right by the medication, the writing I’m doing on Book 2 feels both difficult and life-giving at the same time. In the mornings, I sit in the sun and drink my coffee and watch my children play, and it is good.

We move through the seasons of our lives – light then heavy, dark then bright – everything in its own time. It’s summer, and I’m happier than I’ve been in months. And yet, the world is brimming with sorrow, hurt, loss. Even in the small circles where I swim, there is sickness and unbearable pain. The ones who imagined that they’d mated for life find out that they did not, and the lament drones on.

As I lie in the pool, listening to the goose, I think that this is the difference between politeness and love. To engage with each other’s cries of grief whenever they come rather than finding ways to ignore the sound. To resist the urge to turn up the country music on the radio, and instead to listen with silent reverence for as long as that painful song goes on.

The day wears into night. We make dinner and give the boys their baths and make our way back out onto the deck to watch the dusk roll in.

In the pond, the Canadian goose sings his mourning song, louder and louder, until finally he lifts his wings and flies out of sight.

9 thoughts on “Lament for the Solitary Goose

  1. lordy, lordy, I love your writing. I’m sad for the goose, because loss sucks and even though my brain is (hopefully) a bit more robust than the goose’s, it can’t come up with a better response to loss than his.

    And I’m feeling relief for you for the healing that’s going on and the lovely warmth and sunshine.

    “the difference between politeness and love” Yes.

    1. Oh, and totally check out Scrivener and LOVE it. Started my free trial immediately. What a cool program. I may actually be able to organize myself enough to move forward in some writing projects instead of just making random notes in random places that I can then never find.

      Not that I’m disorganized or anything…

  2. This is so beautifully written.
    We just had a massive mudslide her in Colorado. 3 men lost under a mountain of wet dirt. One of the wives, I keep thinking of. Not knowing her personally, but feeling her pain. Not being able to rescue him, find his body. Being comfortable with where his resting place will forever be. Knowing that they were high school sweethearts, 5 kids, some grandbabies.
    I keep reading her Facebook posts. Listening to her cries, loud and strong. A public morning for all us to see (actually peer in on). Trying to not respond to the simple, quick, “Christian” answers. The “he’s in a better place”, “Give it to God”, “For I know the plans I have for you…” They seems so easy for us to say. Make us feel better.
    Thank you for the reminder to just sit and listen to the cries. They are healing for all.

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