For the past few years I have had a love-hate relationship with the domestic geese at the ranch where my horses are pastured. On the one hand they are storybook creatures and I find much humor in their way of strutting around chests out, and heads held high with beaks lifted in arrogance. In my mind’s eye, I see them wearing reading glasses and peering at me over the top as if they were my superior. And maybe I am not enlightened enough to see that is true. No matter, I do not find humor in their eating the horses’ supplement (though chickens are even worse). If there were only one or two it might not be an issue, but a flock of 17 or so can devour all the spills which for one horse represents half of the supplement that started in his bucket! I see wasted $ signs in my mind, and even worse, deprived nutrition for my horse. Because of this, I have moved into an antagonistic relationship with the geese always shooing them away and then, even further away (they are very easy to herd and fun if one has the time). I cringe as I admit that I’ve been known to send them away with water from a hose. I know they are water birds, but rain, or perhaps I should call it manufactured rain from my hose is not their forte’. It makes me feel very guilty, and I have become their enemy. That is not how I work with my horses nor is it how I want to work with other beings. I tug-o-war with myself about my predicament.
A year ago when the geese were gathered for a community meeting in the common area near the horse arena (which they often do), I stood big and tall in front of them feeling very self important as the standing-room-only flock of geese all focused on me in total silence. At that time there were more than 17, so 50 something eyes were all looking at me as an interesting curiosity. I told them I did not understand their language as I do the horses,’ but I would like to appeal to them to stop eating the horses’ supplement because it belongs to the horses (and me), for gosh sake, and the horses obviously needed it more than the winged creatures in our midst. There was no applause nor “amens”…nor “boos” for that matter; only silence which is not always the case with geese who can be obnoxiously loud when they all talk at once. After my speech, I naively had high hopes, but nothing changed except for a little more temporary tolerance on my part perhaps demonstrating to them that I am truly a good person. As time went by, I gave up on being that good person and gave up my desire to work together. I turned into a bully fulfilling my role as enemy of all winged beings, and guardian of my horses’ feed bowls and my pocket book. There was no love for these arrogant beasts. Except for their eggs. I love them!
Before I tell you what happened next, first a little background. A few years ago, I embarked on a love journey with with one horse in particular, Amoura, the most unlikely candidate for this role in my opinion, but that is for another story. She is definitely not a warm, fuzzy horse, and speaks her mind quickly and succinctly embellished only by pinned ears or a threatening kick or bite, and will deliver if necessary! But hold the judgments of her loosely; she is an amazing horse and an amazing teacher.
She is giving me new definitions of love beyond the familiar to which we humans are tethered, and so I have been soaking in new experiences of love these days and less guarded about feeling and expressing it all. Whatever inhibitions that had been there are gone, and it is refreshing and free flowing like a powerful dance between two world class dancers. Amoura whispers, “That is love.” Standing at ocean’s edge and experiencing the delicate and pearly blue of water and sky, along with tranquil waves, I breathe it in deeply. Amoura whispers, “This is love.”
That brings us back to the story. Three geese had been hanging out in my work area in the barn at night, and sneaking some horse supplement from time to time. I would repeatedly shoo them away. One night, they were standing near a horse that was eating and spilling his soft food on the floor mat. I was preparing to scold them when I realized that they were further away then I’d thought and were more engrossed in something other than the feed. They seemed at that moment, so sweetly innocent and vulnerable. In relief, my heart welled up with loving appreciation and I said with spontaneity and pleasure, “I love you!” to these three geese. Well! That set off a chain reaction. A few minutes later the whole flock of geese appeared in the middle of the corral wanting to meet this human that had said, “I love you.” They huddled together so closely to each other, I wanted to wrap my arms around the whole flock at once. Instead, I only stood there and felt it. Not one of them attempted to eat the horses’ feed. Not one. My heart got even bigger as love seeped into all the nooks and crannies.
By then all the horses were eating, and I was free for a little while. This whole love experience was becoming quite mystical. I saw myself, even at 76, as a young maiden carefree and lovely dancing in the meadows. Singing seemed appropriate. Making up what I thought was my own language and melody, I sang. They listened. All 17 geese and the horses stayed peaceful and quiet while the lyrical songs came in high soprano. We were transported into the home place where there is all beauty and unity. The place of love. The only movement was one goose who saw the cat at my feet as a threat and moved up close and sent him away. Perhaps the young feline was not entering into the love fest.
That night they brought me a story. As the flock of magical geese stood nearby, I was massaging one horse’s tail and had my forehead pressed into the cushiony part of his butt. The two of us zoned out, and the story I am writing was born.
I thought this gathering was the grande finale of the evening, but the rest was to come. After all cleaning up was done and I started saying goodbye to the horses, they drew their heads close to each other as they dropped into slumber. The geese took the cue and moved as close as they could get to both horses and me. Some even bravely wandered under the horses’ drooping heads. It seemed they couldn’t get close enough like squiggling and cuddling under the covers with someone you love. We snuggled together in silence under the starry night. The horses, geese, and me. I went home a little later wondering if this all really had happened. Amoura’s whisper came again, “That was love.”
The next night the flock was not there, but the goose who nests near my work area had left me an egg. Usually I have to sneak it which adds to my guilt, but this time, she got up from her nest immediately when I walked in and then gestured to the egg, “For you.” She was the only goose there to greet me along with her two cohorts, a male and a nanny I surmise. I wondered if the night before had been a one night’s stand since the larger flock was nowhere around.
Moments later they all came waddling into the center of the corral again. Some were a little feisty and threatening with their offensive hissing, but I said as if a little horrified, “Oh no, what about this love thing we’ve got going?” They quieted. Truly. I did a double take in surprise. The flock pressed close to each other and gradually moved within 3 feet of where I was standing where they became one big lump of geese.
They stayed bunched together, and again not one ate the horses’ supplement. I noticed, though, that if I were irritated with a horse for some reason, or raised my voice even in the slightest, the whole flock disappeared in an instant, and then returned shortly after. This night when they returned, they brought me a song. I sang it for them. It was filled with bewitching and dissonant intervals, somewhat like a jazz vocalist might sing but even more enchanting. Like automatic writing, my voice moved from interval to interval without interference from my mind. In the end, the song had been sung; all of us in the barnyard had absorbed it, and there was peace. There will be no repeats. It is gone from memory into worlds beyond, making room for another.
That “another” one came a few nights later when only three geese showed up for the magical meeting. They were waiting for me to sing their new song. It was short but with the same gratifying and softly dissonant intervals. While singing to the geese, I was standing near one horse who nudged me affectionately when I started their song, and then he dropped his head and licked and chewed as he drifted back to sleep….divine contentment. We all felt it. The horses, geese, and me. And the whisper came to my heart, “This is love.”
If interested in animal symbolism for the goose, see the following:
Excerpt from “Animal-Speak, The Spiritual and Magical Powers of Creatures Great and Small” by Ted Andrews:
Keynote – The Call of the Quest and Travels to Legendary Places
“…Most people have heard of the legendary Mother Goose whose stories and rhymes were designed to quiet children. Myths, fairy tales, and other stories capture the imagination of children and adults alike. The goose is thus a totem reflecting a stimulation of the childhood thrill and belief in stories and legendary places. The story(s) we most loved in childhood often reflect the life quest we have come to take upon us in this lifetime. That is why it resonated with us so strongly. Going back and rereading the one or two stories you most loved will often help you to see the patterns in your life. …”