Saturday, December 26, 2015

A Merry Little Christmas -- God Flows in the Hearts and Spirit of the Geese


Familiar and known Canada geese finally returning to Central Park Reservoir on the dawn of a foggy Christmas morning.
Splash Down!
As one goose keeps watchful alert, the others rest after tireless journey of many miles and days.
Taking off in flight at night, but not to depart this time, but to greet.
"Remember us?"
He may be 20-years-old, but Chance still has the heart and spirit of a puppy.
 
Another Christmas rolls around; one I was not looking forward to for numerous reasons.
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The reasons of course, are human.
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I don't come from a large and close knit family. Most of my family has either passed or is scattered around the country. I never had siblings and my one child is grown, married and living upstate.
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Fortunately, my daughter, Tara, visited last weekend and we were able to enjoy a joyous, full-filled three days together. Without those three days, I would likely have been a basket case yesterday.
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Christmas is usually a solitary holiday for me.
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No more acutely felt than this year.
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I lost (what was to me) an important friendship of 18 years, four months ago. It was a friendship I thought "forever"; it was an association I thought joined at the marrow.
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But I was apparently mistaken.
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The relationship didn't end with death or tragedy. Nor with some major disagreement or contentious blowout. Nor with some uncomfortable, excruciating conversation.
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It ended with an email announcing the relationship had "run its course" and that the gentleman had to focus on himself "in all contexts."
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Four months after the fact, I am no closer to understanding what happened or why than on the actual days of the sudden, unforeseen disengagement.
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There was never even a phone call.
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I have of course, tried to stoically accept what cannot be changed and "move on."
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Or, more accurately, I have simply distanced myself from feeling any emotion at all.
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There have been no tears or regrets. There has been no sentimentality or wishes to "go back." There have been no delusions or even thoughts of any kind of romanticism.
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It is as though the currents of my soul simply froze in place with seemingly no place to go.
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Hard, icy; a special kind of nothingness. I wondered what it would take to thaw and make flow again?
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It was all just one colossal mistake and multi-decade lapse in judgment. Emotion and bond are apparently very dangerous things.
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But, I realize now that mostly what I have been practicing is avoidance. Avoidance of having to think or feel or say anything. Frozen in place.
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Far better to think about what political candidates and pundits are saying or the latest Star Wars movie or who I forgot to mail a Christmas card to.
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But, somehow none of these things work too well on the dawn of a Christmas morning when one wakes up to the aloneness of the self without other human presence. It's like staring into a mirror and seeing nothing there.
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So, I turned on the TV to check if the earth was still circling the sun or, if like me, it was frozen in space.
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Apparently, the earth was still spinning and along with it, everything else.
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Endless images of happy, smiling families opening presents by the fireside or piously bowing in church somehow hit one with the hard hammer of human failure.
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But not to drown in a river of self-pity or self-loathing due to all too apparent human inadequacies, I decided instead to go to the Central Park Reservoir in hopes of perhaps seeing a goose or two.
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I didn't, however, expect to see any Canada geese at all.
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The migratory geese using the Reservoir as brief rest stopover in recent months, usually take off at night to continue their journeys south. Typically there are no geese at the Reservoir in the mornings as all have departed during the deep womb and safety of the night.
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With that in mind, it was great surprise when arriving to the Reservoir on Christmas morning and actually seeing some geese lazily swimming on the water as the sun began its sleepy ascent.
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A smile found its way reluctantly across my face.
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Not only were there geese on the water this peaceful Christmas morning, but many other water birds as well. They included many Gulls, Northern Shovelers, some mallards, grebes and for the first time in months, a couple of coots and even a cormorant!
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It seemed many birds were celebrating the hazy Christmas morning!  
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But, the best was yet to come.
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Suddenly in the distance, there was the unmistakable sound of joyous, excited -- and approaching goose honks!
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I turned my eyes to the north to note a very large skein of at least 40 to 50 geese making their way over the trees and through the dense fog and suddenly turning down towards the water.
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Splash down was fast, efficient and noisy as the geese finally landed like proficient water skiers in a glorious cacophony of loud honks and displaced, splashing water. 
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"Finally, finally!  We're HERE!"
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One could almost hear one gigantic sigh of relief.
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The geese could, at last, rest.
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It didn't take long for the geese to again organize themselves into their individual family groups and start to drift lazily on the water, barely moving so much a feather.
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Many tucked their heads into their backs to take a much needed nap. While one cannot know for certain, judging by the behavior of the clearly exhausted night fliers, they had been navigating skies and miles for many hours and even days.
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But, what was most significant about this particular sighting is that it marked the first time of the season of actually seeing geese arrive to the Reservoir as opposed to seeing them depart.
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Hunch told me that these are the late migrators who had finally arrived at the Reservoir to stay for the winter.
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How ironic that the geese (and many of their water bird pals) arrived on Christmas Day!
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As they have done so many times before, the geese somehow magically show up to raise the day at a point I am otherwise frozen and blue. -- It's almost as if the mysterious birds have some mystical powers or can somehow gaze into the souls -- and heartaches of their human kin.
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And so I came away yesterday morning, feeling very much alive and even hopeful again. Hell, if the geese can make it thousands of miles through rain, wind and fog, I can surely make it through a holiday!
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It didn't hurt later to hear from my daughter and son-in-law and to listen to the sounds of classical Christmas carols playing over the stereo. It was like warm feathers flittering across the heart. A hot toddy to the soul.
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And of course, I am fortunate to have my own animal companions. Though my five cats and one dog are (like me) getting on in years, their presence, needs and antics are the small comforts that keep the currents of life moving -- even when other things might not be flowing so well.
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Still, like the geese, I am somewhat a creature of the night.
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What better thing to do on Christmas night than to pack my very senior Pomeranian into his doggie stroller and head back to the Reservoir to check if in fact, the geese who arrived with the dawn on Christmas morning are the ones who actually stay? The ones known and familiar as NYC is their yearly, wintering home.
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Somehow, I knew the geese would still be there.
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With Chance in his stroller and curiously gazing out through the light rain, we made our way to the Reservoir to see scores of Canada geese peacefully gliding through the water under foggy and hazy moonlit sky.
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Despite the thousands of lovely, human-created displays over the Christmas season, this was by far, the most beautiful, most natural and most enchanting.
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Adding merriment to already bountiful scene, was chance meeting with other wildlife lovers. All of us took special delight in the wonders of nature before us.
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And though I had become accustomed to watching geese prepare for take-off in the evening hours at the Reservoir, it was clear these geese weren't going anywhere.
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On the contrary, in apparent recognition of my friend and me, a number of the geese actually took to flying in order to come and greet us.
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"Hey, remember us? We're back!  Good to see you again!"
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It was magical. It was serene. It indeed embodied the entire spirit of Christmas!  Our familiar wintering geese returning on Christmas day. 
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Later, I walked around the mile and a quarter Reservoir on this rain sprinkled night with my little dog in his stroller and gazed at the wistful forms flowing peacefully across the water.
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The geese were all in their designated family groups, most composed of six to a dozen geese.
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I could see no loners.
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I wondered to myself if things like, "throwing under the bus" and abandonment ever or even exist in the goose world?
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One is certainly aware of status and territorial disputes in the animal and goose worlds, but I personally never witnessed goose couples breaking up or a healthy goose abandoning his/her mate or family group. (Lone exception to that rule is a goose who is mortally injured or dying.)
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Bonding and loyalty are extremely powerful forces in the goose world -- even more powerful seemingly than actual and individual survival. I personally believe this to be exactly why Canada geese survive and thrive so successfully in a world where thousands of other species are otherwise facing peril and extinction.
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Loyalty, bond and organization. Few other species (including humans) exemplify these qualities more than do Canada geese. (One of the reasons I personally so admire and relate to them.)
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The rain began to fall a little more heavily as Chance and I finally exited the Reservoir and moved to a quaint and quiet pedestrian path. But, I felt the rain as cleansing and renewal. All was beautiful and heavenly this Christmas day and night and nothing could change that.
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I removed Chance from his stroller and he was happy to walk the rest of the way home with me. A little rain has never dampened Chance's spirits as advanced in age as he might be.
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Once home, I cooked up a simple dinner of spaghetti and mushroom sauce and shared it with my dog who has always been a big lover of pasta. I then pondered briefly, the remains of the day.
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Yes, Christmas was not a day I looked forward to this year.
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The ashes of major and failed human relationship, lack of worldly success and the prospect of still another "family" holiday alone made the day appear ominous and foreboding -- as if being pitched into some black hole or simply being "frozen" as the rest of the world spun madly around.
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But, in fact, everything was moving and freely flowing.
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And nowhere was that more evident yesterday than in the celebratory honks of the returning geese as they made their way through tireless journey, darkness of night and thick fog to splash down at the Reservoir with the dawn of Christmas morning.
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The new dawns await them and there is never time for tears and regrets.
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Indeed, God appears to flow in the hearts and the spirit of the geese as He does in all of nature and His creations.
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And for me, it was indeed, a very merry little Christmas, as I was never really alone.
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On the contrary, my cup runneth over in all of love's, family and nature's splendors and ever-present beauty and support . -- PCA
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                                                   *****

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