There is something particularly poignant about these geese to me now. That first year we were filled with hope at this new adventure. We’d all moved a thousand miles together to live in a beautiful place. The Horrible Quaint Country Store hadn’t happened yet. Our Vermont lives were clean slates. Those early months were like a long sweet vacation. We had company and cooked, and we puttered around decorating the house until we got it just the way we wanted. We spent lots of long evenings out on the porch playing pinochle to the new sounds of owls and rustling in the woods. We didn’t have the chickens yet and we had never homeschooled either. We hadn’t met Jack and Karen or Ellen and Roger. Those friendships with these people I can’t quite remember not knowing, were all still in our future.
I was forty the year we moved. Now I am closing fast on forty-six. Before I came up here I led a brisk life. Truth be told with all the travel and variety of consulting jobs I guess I still do. I am not half as pleased with myself as I was back then. I didn’t know I could fail before we bought the store. Now I know it for sure.
But I have learned too. I know how to go out in the morning, even in summer, wrapped tight in my robe since it is almost always chilly here in the first hours. I know that if I stay still I can tell just what kind of day it is going to be most of the time. The birds are quiet when there are storms coming, noisy when they sense a sunny day. The owls are still mooning around making noise and telling everybody goodnight when the skies will be clear. And the geese are out on the water having a few bugs for breakfast when blue skies are settling in.
I know how to drive on dark roads with only the moon and stars for light. My eyes have adjusted to the clarity of this dark. I carry blankets and lights in winter and tell people which roads I will travel. I know how to raise a baby chicken and I am learning how to plant a garden that will decide our suppers this summer. I can build a fire out of practically anything, and I can tell a fox track from a raccoon’s and know that otter poop is mostly orange.
I live closer to the natural world now. And the thing that strikes me up here this morning as I watch Elsie and Harry is how truly resilient we all are. I don’t know what their lives have been like these past five years. I do know that they keep coming back and raising their family. I don’t know if they lost a house in Florida, or if they were a little hungry one winter like we felt when the store was failing fast. I know that Elsie lost a few feathers this winter and Harry is more solicitous than ever. Their babies are growing fast and spring has been sunny and filled with abundance.
Watching them reminds me that I really don’t understand our soldiers anymore than I understand our leaders. I don’t know what their lives were like before or will be like when they come back home. They didn’t mean to trade a college education for this wretched war with strangers in a foreign land who did not make war on us. And our elected leaders could not possibly have dreamed up so much death and pain when they planned this thing either. They played baseball and fed the ducks when they were little too.
Sometimes things go horribly wrong. And still we hire new people for the jobs and feel hopeful all over again. Or we watch the geese raising their family on the same pond year after year as we watch our own children trip and get back up and thrive and fail. The regressions are apparently necessary to the learning. I surely hope we have all learned something here.
Welcome back Elsie and Harry. Those are some beautiful babies you have there this year. May I feed them a little corn?