Saturday, October 8, 2011

October 8: Wild Geese

This morning while at the YMCA gym I happened to glance out the window just as seven geese flew past. (In my memory now I hear them honking, but I couldn't have, because I was listening to my iPod.) They were flying in a tight line northeastward, over the town transfer station's landfill which abuts the Y. It struck me that even a brief glimpse of a few geese heading out over the dump is still a stirring sight, but I'm not sure why that is. It's not like seeing a Canada goose around here is unusual: a family nested and hung out within sight of my office all summer, and local farm fields currently host flocks of dozens.

In part, I think we earth-bound humans often feel uplifted watching a large bird take flight, something we can only do in dreams or with mechanical assistance. Years ago I dreamed I was riding on the back of a large grey goose as we flew over mountains carpeted in fall colors, and I've never forgotten how that felt. Also, as autumn progresses, the sight of a bird we all identify with migration must swirl something restless within our own souls: flying geese = winter's onset. Even those of us who love winter must respond, must feel a small, unconscious tug to follow the birds and warmth, to head south. Humans originated as creatures of the heat and sun, after all.

So the honking of geese overhead in the dark in the fall is for most a sound of deep poignance. As a classical Japanese kigo or season word, migrating birds, or wataridori is a traditional indicator of fall. I know I'm far from alone in being moved to poetry by this phenomenon--one might even say it's a bit of a cliche--and yet that handful of geese flying over the dump, not even migrating yet, are what struck a chord in my heart this morning.

Seven wild geese flew
and my heart longed to follow
through the deep blue sky.

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