Monday, October 3, 2011

The Color, the Music and the Light

(Photo:  The "family" returned to Harlem Meer this morning.)
"The darkest hour is always just before the dawn."
There is truth to this old adage.   I discovered that when going with my dogs to Central Park before dawn this morning.  Though usually going to the park at night, I have never seen it so dark and seemingly foreboding as it is the last hour before the dawn.
There was a reason for going to the park that early.  But, more about that later.......
I am not a particularly spiritual or religious person. On the contrary, I am usually "anti-" established and organized religion and am a firm believer in the separation of church and state.   Though raised Catholic, I haven't been to Confession in decades or stepped inside a church for at least 6 or 7 years.  That however, is not to say I don't believe in God...
I believe that God exists.  Not as some old white man with long hair and a beard.  But, as the spirit and the force of all things good and all things possible.  God is conscience and God is hope.  
But, most of all, God is the light....
It was raining sporadically when heading to Central Park yesterday about an hour before sunset.  I figured correctly that the rain would discourage the normally large crowds in the park on a fall Sunday afternoon.
I like rain. There is something cleansing, peaceful and refreshing about it. There is to me, the sense of renewal.
Robins were flying around the quiet North Meadow in seemingly celebratory, playful fashion. I was happy to see the robins again.  Many of them start to leave the park this time of year, presumably to migrate to warmer places for winter. But, the rain or perhaps the absence of crowds seemed to bring many of them cheerfully out yesterday.
But, if I was pleased and surprised to see a fairly large group of robins at the North Meadow, the best was yet to come....
Arriving to a very quiet Harlem Meer, it was pleasing to see a young man squatting down to take photos of friendly mallards with his cell phone. 
Looking across the lake, I could see groups of mallards swimming lazily in the mist.
But, there was something more.....
Could it be?   Is it really?   Could those be.....GEESE?
Hurriedly walking to get a better look, it soon became obvious there were five geese swimming on the lake.
Perhaps AG was right.  The migratory geese are starting to arrive!
But, these were not migratory geese.
As soon as they saw my dogs and me, the five geese began to swim confidently in our direction.
It's the family of five geese originally from Turtle Pond!
Securing my dogs to a park bench, I knew it was the family long before they actually arrived and climbed the embankment.   I could then immediately recognize Papa goose with his lame left foot and Mama (AKA "Twikletoes") with the missing webbing on one of her feet.
"Oh my God, where have you guys been?  It is soooo good to see you again!"
The three yearlings immediately came to me and started to eat enthusiastically from my hand. Papa hung back a little (as he usually does) and Mama slowly made her way towards me.   She too, gently nibbled from my hand.  "Ah, are so beautiful and so sweet!"
Papa never did eat from my hand.  Rather, he held "sentry duty" as the others ate.  After a short while however, he began to nibble seeds from the ground that I tossed to him and two of the yearlings took over the sentry watch with heads held high in the air, diligently and dutifully watching out for any possible threats.
It is beyond description to accurate describe the thrill I felt upon seeing this wondrous and mysterious family once again.  Like some sort of "sign" from the heavens.
Mallards quickly joined the scene, grabbing seeds from the ground and I couldn't help thinking of what NY state Director of USDA "Wildlife Services," Martin Lowney once said about mallards.  "They are freeloaders."
"Freeloaders," indeed.   Although I had brought a decent supply of cracked corn, sunflower seeds, a little cat chow and small bits of bread (as their favorite treat), it was all soon gone.
By the time, Brad (the domestic, flightless duck) finally arrived, I had no food left.
"I am so sorry, Brad......I will be back early tomorrow. I hope you can understand and forgive."
For his part, Brad appeared a bit confused, but not all that much put out.
"Yeah, I know how you are about the geese. -- As if we didn't have enough crazy mallards here already!"
By this time, the rain had started to fall much heavier and I had to pull the hood of my rain jacket over my head.
The geese had gathered together on the embankment and appeared like they might settle down for the evening, the yearlings still holding diligent sentry duty.
But, as happy and serene as the scene was, I knew I would have to return early in the morning.   Not just to keep a promise to Brad, but to also check if "harassment" (i.e. Border Collies) would be sent out after the geese.
As I turned to leave with my dogs, Tina and Chance, all five geese looked at me with dignity as if to say, "Yes, nice to see you trip home!"
And so this was the reason, I left home almost a full hour before dawn this morning...
I didn't know what to expect when arriving to the Meer, still cloaked in darkness as the first hints of light began to etch across the sky. 
Would the geese still be there?
Thinking back on the dream-like night before, I recalled several of the geese looking across the lake as if wondering where all the other geese were?
Harlem Meer is normally a "staging or gathering" site for the geese this time of year.
The "family" had returned several weeks ago, but were gone the next day.
I could not figure out at the time if they were chased out by harassment or if they left on their own accord to seek out the new "gathering" point for the geese prior to fall migrations.
Had they returned again to the Meer with the hope that other geese had finally arrived?
Were that the case, they would have to leave again because there are no other geese at Harlem Meer this year.  The human powers that be saw to that.
I was not at the Meer more than five minutes this morning when quickly spotting the geese swimming peacefully in the lake.   And, as the night before, they immediately swam towards me in recognition and greeting.
But, with the sun then coming up and early morning joggers and off-leash dogs already running around the Meer, the geese elected to stay safely in the water, coming cautiously to the edge.  I squatted down and fed Mama and one of the yearlings from my hand. 
Once again, the mallards, including Brad this time, quickly made their way to the treat despot and helped themselves to grabbing breakfast away from the geese.
Not particularly perturbed, the geese moved on seemingly having come to me more as greeting than any real need for food.  The mallards climbed the embankment and cleaned up the seeds and chow.
Having brought my camera with me, I moved to where the geese were gently preening in the lake and snapped some photos.
"Beautiful!" came a comment from a passing jogger while looking towards the peaceful geese.   "Yes, they are," I replied cheerfully.  "It is so good to see them back."  The jogger smiled and continued on his way.......
All the treats gone and all the birds seemingly happy and for the moment, content and undisturbed, I anticipated that the geese were "safe" for the morning and that I could begin the journey home with my dogs.
Walking up a hill away from the Meer, I glanced down to see at least three of the Turtle Pond goose family looking up in my direction as if to bid a good day.
"God, I love these geese!"
The morning had evolved into one that was crisp, beautiful, colorful and bright.  Early morning joggers then whizzed along the north park drive.
But, none of it could match the joy and elation in my soul.
Although I had inserted a rock tape in my Walkman yesterday morning, I had a habit when recording them, of sometimes mixing up different types of music.
And even though it was only the early days of October, I was suddenly hearing a Christmas carol performed instrumentally.
"Angles we can hear on high.....singing out a lullyby.........Gloria,,,,,,Gloria......."
At that moment, a few large birds flew high overhead coming from the direction of the Meer, but I could not tell if they were geese.....Tears of joy welled in my eyes.
And I thought to myself that in all the horror, hopelessness and carnage of the past year, God looked out for and protected my special and so beloved family of geese from Turtle Pond.
For those who doubt the existence or the "proof" of God, there are the unmistakable signs He sometimes shows to us.
Will I see "my" special geese again?
I don't know.
They may only be a sign; the proof that hope exists.
"The darkest hour is always just before the dawn."
If God is anything of recognizable form, He is the light.
And the special family of geese, His symbol of that light and hope -- even during the darkest hours.  -- PCA

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