The scene wasn't entirely gloom and doom, but neither was it full of cheer. Then, we noticed a in the empty sky a lower cloud waving against a ghost-like backdrop. A line, no, a couple of puffs, no, line, back and forth the shape shifted and writhed until it finally came into focus and our heart leaped with joy. GEESE! A large flock of Canadas, probably close to 50 or more, headed Northeast at mid-day. To feed? Back to open water somewhere to rest after a morning feeding session? They were headed in the wrong direction to be migrating.
|Canada geese headed away|
Photo by J. Harrington
We're not sure what it is about waterbirds, especially larger ones such as geese and swans, that pleases us so, just to see them. We've watched the pattern long enough to simply enjoy it: large flocks in the air, heart soars. Years ago, when we were among the honorable order of active waterfowl hunters, we thoroughly relished the number of things we got to spend time messing about with:
- dogs: Labradors in particular
- shotshell loads and patterns
- pick-up trucks
- camouflage for: hunter, boat, shotguns, etc.
- buckets and satchels and like to haul most of the above
- thermos for coffee
- gloves and warm layers
- water and snow proof outer shells
- paints for decoys and camouflage
- calls for ducks and geese
- lanyards for calls
|swans resting on ice|
Photo by J. Harrington
We've no doubt forgotten some odds and ends and maybe even some major piece or two of equipment such as blinds and cases (floating) for shotguns. We're going on record, right now, to say how very grateful we are for all the hours and days "wasted" with friends (two and four-legged) in swamps, marshes, tidal creeks, clam flats, lake shores, cattails, rushes, etc in pursuit of waterfowl that were worth every outrageous cent they cost in dollars per pound. Were it not for those hours and days, we might still be looking forward to a butterball tomorrow, instead of an organic, free range, flavorful bird. Count me among those who, like Aldo Leopold, cannot live without wild things. I'm thankful we still have some to enjoy. Shortly after we finished our business and had returned home to walk the dogs, the darkened skies shared some snow showers. They reminded us of the old waterfowler's saying:
Fust it rainedWe settled for three out of the four today. Good enough! We still had a lab to walk in the snewshower!
And then it blew
And then it friz
And then it snew!
Call Him Zero
By Sydney Lea
It struck them both as strange: although each pond and lakeclear to the coast was locked in ice, no open water,the imperious wind kept pushing waterfowl inland. That nighta winter moon stood high and pierced the thin clouds’ vaporsso the boy could contemplate their emptiness inside.Relentless, the flocks flew westward. The border collie whimpered,putting his forepaws now on one sill, now another,as if some odd creature circled the house.This lifetime later,a man, he looks back on that stay at her farm, its details clear,their meanings still vague. His grandmother called it wrong as well,that the weather should be so frigid even in such a gale.As a rule this kind of cold needed calm. He sees the fire,the dazzle of sparks when she loaded a log. What seemed most amisswas how the old woman’s house no longer felt safe that visit.He wanted and did not want to know what the dog might know.He tried to picture the menace outdoors. He longed to shape itso that he might name it. And after these many miles to now,away from the ruby glow of the metal parlor stove,from that blue-eyed collie, from the woman he so admires and lovesrecalling that night; after so much time,he still believesthat to name a thing is to tame it, or at least to feel less bewildered.Not Death, for instance, but The deaths of Al and Virginia, his parents.Not the abstract legalism, Divorce, but The disappearanceof my sweet wife Sarah, run off with that California lawyer.Not simply Alone, but I have no children. Was that the wailof geese coming down the stovepipe? If so, it would be a marvel,but he knew it wasn’t. The caterwaul from the barn was alarming,and more than it might have been had Grandma herself not startled—after which she put on her late large husband’s threaded farmingcoveralls outside her housedress, which rode up and madea lumpy sash. She stepped out under cloud and bird.He would not follow. Rather, he stoodindoors to waituntil she came stomping her boots through puddled barnyard holeslike a child herself, kicking ice shards to scuttle alonglike beads from a broken bracelet. No matter. The world had gone wrong,violent and void at once. She said, The mare has foaled.On tiptoe, she read the mercury out the kitchen window,then told her shivering grandson, We’ll call the new colt Zero.
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Please be kind to each other while you can.