I wrote the following post on May 7, but for whatever reason, I hesitated to post it. After seeing an update on our NextDoor neighborhood board last night, my anger has been re-ignited, and so, I’m posting.
May 7, 2020
I thought I was handling the heartaches of this pandemic pretty well. The inability to spend time with my dad who’s been struggling with the effects of prostate cancer. The sudden “taboo” of hugging my grandkids. The forbiddenness of going out to dinner. The ineptitude of our government. The divisiveness in our country, even against a common enemy. The overload of new conspiracy theories.
I’ve tended to go through each day of eight weeks calmly and with gratitude for my ability to work from home, for the beautiful walks I’ve been able to take each day. . .
And that’s where it all fell apart. This morning. On my walk.
A little background. We live a couple of blocks from a beautiful neighborhood pond. In the weeks of sheltering-in-place, I’ve seen it burst with life. Families with children walking around. Young boys and old men fishing on the banks. New duck families proudly strutting around with their new broods. And geese, honking and chasing as they protect their new fuzzy goslings.
But there’s been one goose pair that has captured my heart. For approximately six weeks, I’ve watched the female on her nest at the edge of a peninsula of the pond. Her mate hovers near by. That’s about a week longer than it should have taken for the eggs to hatch.
So, in the last 10 days or so, as I’ve walked past, I’ve felt sad and wondered if there’s still a chance they’ll hatch, and if not, how long a goose will sit on dead eggs.
Maybe I’ve watched and waited because I looked for any bright light, any tidbit of hope during this dark time. I guess this might have been a sign that the pandemic is affecting me more affected than I’ve let on, even to myself.
And, I don’t think I’ve been the only one. Many days, I’ve passed by and noticed someone left her a bowl of water. Some have sprinkled breadcrumbs and even leaves and grass for her to put in her nest. So, it appears many in the neighborhood have been rooting for her, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it is for the same reason.
We all need something to root for.
So, back to this morning. Steve and I walked around the pond just as the sun began to rise. With hardly a soul out at the pre-dawn hour, the morning was quiet and peaceful, until I heard the squawk of geese echo through the still air. When I turned toward the commotion, I saw three teenagers chasing several of the geese near the bank of the pond. Knowing many of those geese had goslings with them, I felt ire rising up inside me.
We turned a corner and walked around a block that took us away from the pond. Still, I couldn’t get the image of the three teens out of my mind, concerned they’d disturb the Mama-to-Be goose.
I quickened my pace. But being the pacifist I tend to be, I tried to calm my annoyance.
They’re just mischievous kids.
They’re not going to hurt anything.
It’s none of your business.
None of my logic excuses self-inflicted bullshit was working.
As soon as we turned the corner and the pond was again in sight, I found the teens near the goose on her nest. Now, one of the boys held a long branch. He was poking it toward the goose as the other boy and girl egged him on.
My anger erupted. I tore across the lawn toward them, my mind storming with thoughts:
What do you think you’re going to do about it? Stop. Turn around.
They’re going to hurt the goose. Damage the eggs.
None of my thoughts mattered. All I cared about as I stomped toward them was preventing them from hurting the goose or her eggs.
I erupted in a loud yell. “Hey!”
They turned and looked at me. Wide-eyed and apparently startled by the crazed woman approaching her, the girl said, “What?”
One of the boys, the one with the long stick, kept walking.
“What are you doing?” I whined loudly, but felt myself trying to calm.
“We’re not doing nothing,” said the boy.
“I saw you poking that goose with a stick,” I said.
“We wasn’t gonna hurt it,” said the girl.
My anger rose again at the stupidity of her response. “Then what were you trying to do?”
“We just wanted to see what she was sitting on.”
What a miserable excuse for a response.
“What d0 you think she’s sitting on? She’s sitting on EGGS!”
The boy and the girl stood silently. That they turned to wait for us and talk to us, while their cohort coward walked away, began to calm me. My inner voice told me to try to reason with them.
Steve said, “Why would you do something like that?”
“We wasn’t doing nothing to hurt them,” replied the girl.
I said, “Why would you even want to scare them?” Suddenly, all my sadness about the likelihood that this goose’s eggs would probably never hatch rose up. “Do you know how long she’s been sitting on those eggs? Why would you want to scare her away?” I felt a lump in my throat, yet, my stubborn pride wasn’t about to let them see me cry.
There was nothing they could say. Except, again, “We wasn’t doing nothing.”
As they started to walk away, I said, “Please, just leave them alone.”
My heart continued to race as we walked home. I can’t ever recall a time in my life when I’ve reacted that way. I almost ALWAYS avoid conflict.
Update: May 16, 2020
Upon arriving in Arlington, VA, after a 3-day journey across country to be with my daughter when she, too, becomes a mama to her second child, I was perusing social media to wind down before going to sleep.
Not a good idea. I came upon a post on my NextDoor neighborhood board that made me soar in one instant and brought me crashing down in the next. (I’m not sure if you can see this without being a member of my neighborhood, but click HERE to read the post.)
For those who can’t read the post, here’s the glorious/heartbreaking synopsis:
The goslings hatched! However, within hours, an idiot from the neighborhood took it upon herself to take four of them home, believing she knew better than the mother goose how to care for them.
First, Federal law protects Canadian geese. It’s illegal to harm geese, their eggs, or their nests in the United States without permission from the U.S. Fish and Wild Service.
Second, who is SHE to believe she can care for them better than the mother goose?
I, and many others in the neighborhood are furious at her narcissistic stupidity. Many have insisted the person who originally posted the news report the woman to the game warden and have begged her to return the goslings, though I fear it’s too late.
The action of this meddler, who, after weeks and weeks of this goose’s patient guard over her nest as a hopeful neighborhood watched and waited with her, took it upon herself to know best how to care for these baby geese, reignited my anger enough to make me publish this post.
Both incidents have something in common that bothered me, and both can be summarized in what I said to those kids:
Just leave them alone.
As I mentioned earlier, for me, this Mama goose (who I’ve learned through the NextDoor neighborhood board has been named “Gracie) was like a bright spot in an otherwise sad time for our world–a ray of hope that there will still be plenty in life that will go on “as normal,” no matter what may change as a result of this pandemic. Based on comments I’ve seen from the neighborhood, many feel the same way.
It appeared that for whatever reason, the eggs would not hatch. Fearing the eggs were dead, made me sad, yet, Gracie continued to hope which reminded me not to give up hope.
To see those kids intrude on that hope, possibly destroy it, angered me.
To read on the neighborhood board that the goslings had hatched brought a surge of joy–a realization that regardless of the hope I’d pretty much lost, those eggs hatched.
But, in the next sentence, to read a woman took the babies to her home, thinking she could care for them better than Gracie, instantly jettisoned me back to anger. Even if she returns the babies, I wonder if the mother may now reject them.
I’m certain I’ve felt a personal stake in the “Mother Goose Saga” because I see it is a metaphor for events going on in the world far, far away from the pond.
The kids who harassed the goose, for seemingly selfish entertainment purposes, brought to mind people who tease or humiliate those who are different. Even those who think differently about something – about almost anything these days – are worthy of ridicule.
The woman, ignorantly believing she knew best how to care for the goslings, took it upon herself to take the goslings from Gracie, apparently believing she would be the better caretaker, an act that may lead to their deaths. It reminded me of the two Georgia men who, rather than contact police, took it upon themselves to do vigilante justice. Whether intended or not, it resulted in the death of Ahmaud Arbury.
It seems we will rally to fight a common enemy when we can “see” the enemy and are certain he/she/it exists–ie, the neighbor who kidnapped the goslings. The number of comments on the neighborhood board (many demanding to know the woman’s name) makes evident the neighbor who took the baby geese was certainly an enemy to rally against.
It’s apparently not so easy when there’s an enemy we clearly fear, but cannot see, like COVID-19. It’s not an enemy we can grasp, so instead, we look for another enemy, someone we can blame, and from what I’ve seen, it’s anyone who thinks differently.
I can’t say if the pond incident would have so affected me if we hadn’t spent the last 8 weeks in quarantine, uncertain of when or if our world will ever return to what it was a few months ago.
Does it really matter? Who we are, the events at the pond and away from the pond, are all related. We can’t control life. We can’t control nature. We can’t control each other.
Live and let live.
Second Update: May 16, 2020
Excellent news! According to additional posts on the neighborhood board, the game warden was contacted and the goslings have been returned to Gracie, who has apparently welcomed their return.
Hope won, and the Mother Goose Saga has a happy ending. Even if our future is uncertain, there will still be happy endings.