Thursday, March 10, 2011

Of Family Units and "Telling it to God"

(Photos: Papa goose returned to Turtle Pond yesterday -- along with his mate and family.)
Yesterday was both, thrilling and demoralizing.
I had agreed to meet with a young woman journalism student from NYU.
"Chelsia" is young, attractive and bright.  But, even more impressive than these attributes, Chelsia is interested in the goose issue and is working on a video news story for the university.  
Since Chelsia was eager to shoot video of geese but was short on time, I suggested we go together to Central Park's "Turtle Pond."
This past Sunday, Turtle Pond was replete with flocks of both, mallards and Canada geese.
But, as noted many times, populations of Canada geese vary in the park tremendously -- especially, this time of year, when thousands of migratory birds stop over briefly in Central Park before moving on to breeding areas further north.
When Chelsia and I arrived to Turtle Pond yesterday, there was just a scant hand full of mallards and geese still remaining.   Most had obviously moved on.
Moreover, the geese who were there were moving around in the middle of the pond, making close-up photography of them difficult.
Chelsia proceeded, in the meantime, to interview me on the small pier that overlooks the pond.
I normally don't like being on camera for verbal interviews. I still have a bit of a Texas drawl (from spending 6 months in Austin as a child) and nearly being a senior citizen, my "looks" aren't what they were 20 years ago.
The chilly winds whipping the hair in front of my face, probably didn't help either.
That said, I am willing to go before a camera and microphone, if it is to help the geese in any small way.
Following the interview, Chelsia and I attempted again to find a good angle to get videos of the few geese on the pond.
This time, a small group of the geese had swum over near the rocks surrounding Belvedere Castle.
"Wow, that strange!" I said. "Normally, the geese don't go near the rocks. I wonder if that might be the geese who raised six goslings here last year?  The parents had nested somewhere in the rocks."
The question kind of hung in the air, as obviously Chelsia had no way of knowing the answer.
We began to walk around Turtle Pond.   A gaggle of six geese suddenly honked for a few seconds and then took off from the pond.  The geese flew overhead in a perfect "V" formation, but they were too fast for Chelsia to set up her Cannon video camera and shoot.
Suddenly, we noticed that the geese who had been swimming near the castle rocks, had moved to the grassy area on the other side of pond and were grazing.
"Let's go over there," I suggested to Chelsia.  "If they don't move, you can get good videos of the geese on the grass!"
We walked over to the grassy fenced in area to the east of Belvedere Castle -- another tip  that the geese grazing there might be the family from last year. Normally, other geese and mallards don't flock in that particular location.  However, I didn't want to "assume" anything because if there is anything learned over the past few years of observing Canada geese, it is that they are unpredictable.
Fortunately, for us, the geese hadn't moved.  Six of them quietly nibbled at the grass. The  image was one that reminded me greatly in a "deja-vu" sense,  of the parent geese last year and their six tiny goslings.  I had discovered the family of geese only days after the little yellow babies had hatched last May.  This was the protected spot that the parents raised the little ones in the weeks after they were newly born.
As Chelsia set up her video camera, I proceeded to walk closer to the grazing geese and carefully observe them.
Four of the geese were obviously young by their slightly gangly appearance.  The two older ones were fuller and appeared to be a gander and his mate.
Suddenly, the gander began to walk slowly.  He walked with a pronounced limp:
"Oh my God!  It IS the family from last summer!" I proclaimed with wild joy to Chelsia. "I can recognize the papa goose by his LIMP!"
"Really?" Chelsia asked. "That's amazing. They all came back?"
"Yes, yes!" I replied excitedly.  "The parents originally had six goslings.  But, one had to be later rescued and sent to a sanctuary because he had a condition called 'Angel Wings' which prevented him from being able to fly.  Another gosling later disappeared and presumably fell to misfortune when the little ones were learning to fly.  But, its amazing that they all have survived the winter and are still together!  The goslings are almost a year old now!"
My heart swelled with joy and celebration on seeing this ever beautiful family once again!  And, like those who know and have observed geese over long periods of time say, yes, indeed, the goslings stay with the parents for up to a full year.
I pulled a small sandwich bag of wild bird seed out of my pocket and proceeded to offer some seeds to the family.
Just like old times, the parent geese deferred to the little ones and one of the gangly goslings immediately walked up to me and trustfully took the seed gently from my hand. I wondered briefly if he remembered me from last summer?   Of course, I liked to think so.
Just at that moment, an older couple, perhaps in their late 60's,  walked down the path that leads from Belvedere Castle and near the grazing geese.
The woman looked at the six peacefully grazing geese and then loudly and sternly said to her husband, "I don't understand why they don't capture and cook those geese!"
The stinging words made my skin crawl.  I couldn't believe my ears!
"Did you hear what that woman just said?" I asked Chelisa with shock. "She says the geese should be captured and cooked!"
Being a journalism major, Chelsia was eager to get statements from other park goers.  Particularly, it seems, those who might be hostile to the geese and represent opinion different from mine.
She immediately walked up to the couple and asked if they wouldn't mind answering some questions about the city's plan to kill more geese. 
The husband and wife gave their names and the wife particularly launched into all the old familiar tirades against the geese -- even before Chelsia had chance to ask her specific questions.
"Well, you know they flew into that plane two years ago and forced it to land in the Hudson!"
I replied hastily, "That plane had engine problems even BEFORE it left the ground that day! It had no business being in the air!  Meanwhile, there are billions of birds who fly.  You want to kill every bird?"
"Humans are more important than birds," the husband answered. "There's hierarchy, you know."
"Tell that to GOD!"  I angrily shot back.
I could feel my head getting hot with disgust.
"The geese taste good," the wife said, seeking to justify the couple's seeming attitude that all geese should be dead.   "Beside, we have too many! " she added.
"We have too many PEOPLE!"  I retorted. "I can't walk out my door without immediately encountering a thousand humans!  Some of us come to the park to try and enjoy a little of NATURE!   As for 'tasting good' these birds are filled with toxins from eating pesticide leaden grass.  You want to eat it go right ahead!  In fact, why don't we just KILL every animal on the planet and get it over with!"
The older couple looked stunned, I suppose from seeing so much anger spill from a fellow park goer.
Meanwhile, Chelsia appeared to be upset with what seemed to be tears in her eyes.  But, perhaps it was the just the chill of the day, I can't say for sure.
I realized at that point, I was interrupting Chelsia's attempted interview of the couple.  But, under the circumstances, it was impossible for me to just stand there peacefully and listen to such mindless drivel and defamation of the geese without answering. 
Especially, in front of the family of geese I had so come to cherish and respect over the past year.
It was like hearing someone say that my two dogs should be, "captured and cooked."
I excused myself to Chelsia and told her it was best that I leave under the circumstances. That way, she could conduct her interview without interruption or debate.  
Chelsia thanked me and I proceeded to move on, as she continued her interview of the (to me)  very bizarre, older couple.
Walking away, I pulled a cigarette out of my bag, to try and calm my jumpy, frayed nerves.(Don't think the new smoking ban is yet in place in city parks).  Thankfully, no one said anything to me, though I passed a park jeep.
And I thought to myself, "Wow. -- The people walk by six geese peacefully grazing on grass in a city park and all they can think of is killing and cooking!"
"How is it that some people can only relate to animals as items on a dinner plate?" 
Yes, indeed.  Tell that one to God.  -- PCA


Karyn said...

Interesting that the plane was already experiencing engine troubles. And, possibly fortunate for the pilot, crew, and passengers that the plane flew into the geese when it did, allowing them to land in the Hudson where everyone survived. Without geese in the sky that day, the plane may have flown a little longer on faulty engines and then crash-landed into a field somewhere with the possibility of far more devastating consequences.

PCA said...

@ Karyn: You make an interesting point and most likely one that is close to reality.

It was not however, fortunate for the two geese that the compromised plane collided with OR the thousands of geese who have since been rounded up and gassed with "Flight 1549" as the excuse.

The bottom line is that the United Airways plane should NOT have been in the skies that sad day.

Yes, Sully deserves all the credit in the world for safely landing a plane whose two engines "were in a mess" following the ill fated flight.

Well, the engines weren't "in a mess" just from two geese.

The engines apparently were already that way. -- or at least close to it before it ever took off that frigid January day.