Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Fire and Rain

The words from an old James Taylor song floated across my mind last night while swimming laps in a semi dream-like state at Lasker Pool.
As wonderful as the water felt and the sweet sensation of flying, I couldn't seem to forget the earlier scene when first arriving at Harlem Meer.  
The scene of the mostly empty lake devoid of any geese.
A scene I cannot seem to get used to.
On Labor Day, the outdoor pool will officially close.
I am not sure how much I will return to Harlem Meer after that.  The experience lately is too dispiriting.
I still feel obligation to look after Brad, the flightless domestic duck, who earlier in the summer, lost his long-time mate, Angelina to unknown forces.
But, even seeing Brad in recent days has become a kind of sad and forlorn experience.
Fact is, I don't always see Brad now.
Since losing both Angelina and recently the protective geese, Brad has become a much less confident, more wary and nervous duck.   He spends most of his time in the middle of the lake, rarely venturing on the embankments as he did when having the comfort and protection of the other birds.
Though Brad generally hangs loosely with the mallards these days, he has failed to find a new mate.  Perhaps that is not possible, since Brad is a domestic and flightless duck and the mallards are wild and flighty.   (Angelina, had after all, also been a domestic, flightless duck.)
I did see Brad Monday evening.  But, that was only briefly and it was only after I searched the entire lake for him.
Brad finally and nervously came up on the south embankment of the Meer, where I tossed some seeds to the mallards who typically rest there in the evening.   Brad grabbed a few seeds, but then became spooked by something and immediately jumped back in the water and swam away.
At first, I couldn't figure what was freaking Brad out.
But, then a few minutes later, three fishermen came by. One old guy and two younger ones.
The old guy cast out a huge fishing line -- at least 20 feet long -- upon the water, right in the area where the mallards suddenly scattered.
"Why are you fishing in the area of the ducks?" I questioned.  "You have a huge, empty lake here!   Are you deliberately fishing for ducks?"
The offending fisherman didn't say anything.
I asked the two younger guys, "Does he speak English?  You're not supposed to harass the wildlife here."
The two teenagers tried to say something to the old guy, but he paid them no more mind than he did me.
I then had to dodge out of the way of the fisherman fanatically casting his huge line back and forth repeatedly.  I sat on a nearby park bench to try and insure that none of the ducks got caught up in the fishing line.
After about fifteen minutes of this crap, the old guy finally caught a tiny fish, not much bigger than a goldfish.  The fish laid motionless on the ground.
"You need to throw the fish back," I said softly, but adamantly.
He did.  But, I'm not sure the tiny fish was still alive.
Satisfied with his "conquest" the old fisherman and his younger pals finally left.
A few of the mallards slowly and cautiously made their way back to the embankment.
But, Brad was not among them.
I think I understand now why Brad spends most of his time in the middle of the lake.
Am I going to want to return to Harlem Meer once the pool closes on Labor Day to watch scenes like this? 
Probably not.
Its hard seeing Brad like this -- a frightened shadow of his former self.
And its hard watching the couple of dozen mallards still remaining at the Meer constantly harassed.
(Many mallards apparently left with the six geese last week.  At least 30 to 40 of them.)
I realized when swimming last night how naive and "in denial" I have apparently been over the past year or so.
Always telling myself that despite all the goose roundups and slaughters occurring around New York City that somehow, "my" geese at Central Park would escape the madness and be "safe."
USDA has, after all, never rounded up geese in Central Park.
But, the fact is, they have rounded up geese almost everyplace else.
So, what geese are left to fly into Central Park now?
Apparently very few or even none.
I remember last winter, when noting the unusually low number of geese at the Reservoir from December through February, I tried to tell myself that it was due to more than 90% of the Reservoir being frozen over.
But, that didn't seem to deter the mallards who wintered at the Reservoir.
I now don't believe the low number of geese in Central Park over this past winter had anything at all to do with how much of the Reservoir was frozen.
That was just a lie I told myself in order not to acknowledge the reality that most of our NYC resident geese have in fact, been wiped out.
But, I realize that now.
Especially with the unusually high number of "loner" geese observed over the past couple of months.   Geese who have, like Brad, lost their mates or families.
This morning, when coming online and googling geese articles, this one popped up:
It is about the "joy" of teaching youngsters to hunt geese.
The outdoors column describes shooting at three flying geese and killing two of the three.
That was most likely a family of geese, leaving one "loner" to survive.
I left a scathing comment to this vile piece, the last line of which was:
"For sure, I will think of you and this "column" every time I see a loner goose swimming forlornly on the water and calling out for his/her lost mate, offspring or parents."
The question is, will I ever see another goose again in Central Park?
I don't actually know the answer to that question.
Thus the lines of the song that came to me last night while swimming in a dream-like state at Lasker Pool:
"I've seen fire and I've seen rain.
I've seen sunny days that I thought would never end.
I've seen lonely times when I could not find a friend.
But, I always thought that I would see you,
one more time again."  -- PCA

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