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Published on September 14th, 2008 | by Justin Van Kleeck

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Honk (and Smile) If You Love Canada Geese

Sometimes nature blows you over like an angry breath from Boreas, Greek god of the north wind. Other times, though, and probably more often, nature sneaks up on you like a snake slithering through the grass to catch a witless mouse. Nature can be loud and dazzling and catch you whether you will or no, but, probably more often, nature whispers to us and peeks out from behind a tree trunk or a cloud or a flower petal and will remain hidden if you do not bother to look.

Case in point: The other day, after finishing my lunch outside of the community college where I work, I had the urge to take a little barefooted walk on the grass. It was a warm, sunny day, the grass had just been cut, and there was plenty of wide-open space to wander in with views of the mountains on just about every side, so something in me wanted to ramble a bit rather than kill twenty minutes or so in front of the computer before getting back to work.

So, sandals in hand, I walked down the grassy hill behind the main building, no real destination or direction in mind but letting the sun and wind and spirit-of-the-place guide me. And, as usual, I made a wise decision in doing so.

For soon I happened across a group of eleven Canada geese resting in the shadows of some big maple trees. Some were standing around, seeming to converse on some important topic in the goose world. Others were taking a noonday siesta on the cool dirt under the tree trunks. But one and all, they were a tableau of peace and the simple beingness of natural life.

Now, I love Canada geese. On the ground or in the air or in the water, they are just so beautiful and evocative. Especially when they start honking. When that sound lilts through the darkness of night, or the mist of morning, or any old time they feel like tooting their horns, it seems as if the voice of winter is calling out–even in summer under the heat of the noonday sun!

So I crossed my fingers and headed over towards them. Walking tenderly, breath held in with care lest an incautious puff ruffle their feathers, I managed to make it to some seats about thirty feet away without sending them scattering. To my surprised delight, they were almost as interested in me as I was in them…or less, that is, since they seemed more to tolerate my featherless presence rather than gaze upon me with awe or appreciation.

I sat, then, under the shade of the maples with the gracious and graceful Canada geese. They let me share that shadowed space with them for about ten minutes before some silent, shared signal sent them wandering off en masse to pick around for edibles in the grass.

And I wandered away myself back to the main building, back to the shade of climate-controlled indoor space, back to work.

But the geese stayed with me, both inside and outside–outside being the smile that I wore when walking through the building’s door. And so entering that shaded hallway, I was still warm and bright like the sun and like my smile thanks to a quiet little bit of time with the Canada geese.

This day, like every day, I found something, even if only one thing, to make me smile. I had one thing to be thankful for, a quiet, tender little bit of joy to make my life fuller, more meaningful.

Nature always gives me something to smile over, as long as I am careful to look, to see, to pause, and to give thanks. Otherwise the geese may honk and the sun may shine, but my heart will be deaf to the song and closed to the light. And that is nothing more than death-in-life.

Have you had your smile today?

Image credit: MONGO at Wikimedia Commons.



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About the Author

I am an ethical vegan (since 1999), a writer, an educator, an activist, an organizer, and a vegan-of-all-trades. I have a PhD in English but then left academia to work on social change. I focus on veganism, animal rights, local foods, farming practices, environmentalism, and sustainability--starting from the position that humans are just one part of the biosphere, not the center of it.



  • Marion Lynne

    I love Canada geese. They are very special, big hearted, big spirited birds. They are soo willing to share their world; unfortunately humans are not.

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