Irene and Peter and Canada Geese

Lac Du Santuaire (Lake of Sanctuary)


Our dear friend Peter and our mother Irene posed for a sunset shot on Sunday. In the background, on the lawn at the shore, a family of geese munched dandelions.

The family of geese, it seems, have been here since spring; two parents and four goslings. We startled them when we came out of the house. A few looked up, and a few headed toward the water. When we called to them, they stopped and watched us in a long defensive pause.

This regal family was unaccustomed to company on their private lawn. We are visiting just a few weeks in summer, and we have just arrived. The father stood closest to us, his long neck erect to assume the maximum height. He did not relax or take his eyes off of us. His family adjusted to the presence of people by taking cues from the father. After a pause, one by one each began to cautiously take a more aware bite of grass from the tempting green lawn. We called to him in friendly words, politely keeping our distance and praising his beauty and family. He stood like a statue, untrusting and unmoved.

The mother and children gradually relaxed a little, and somewhat returned to their dandelion dinner. The mother had placed herself at the shore, near the entrance to the water through a gap at our dock. The four young geese seemed almost fully grown, yet like teenagers still a bit smaller than their parents. They carried on as if instructed by their parents to keep on eating while the parents stood guard. And so they did.

A lazy one reclined on the damp grass, never once rising to stand, but just stretching her neck to pluck nearby flowers she found within her reach. Three others on their webbed feet, not from alarm but from trust that their parents knew best, snapped up tufts of dinner from further away, although to be sure, still safely located between their mother at the shore and their father facing the house.

As we watched and enjoyed the changing colors of sunset, the birds completed their meal, maybe a tad less leisurely than they might have if we had not entered the scene. The mother, sensing it was time, set off for a sunset swim. One by one, first the lazy one, then the three busy siblings, followed her under the dock into the lake.

As the father heard and then watched them swim in a line behind their mother, he walked after them toward the water. As the mother’s wake spread wider on both sides of her young followers, the regal family ended their day with a proud parade across the sunset colored water. The father followed them with his gaze, then walked out onto the dock. As the last of his children sailed past his post, he plopped into the water and took his place at the end of the line. From this position, he surveyed in pride and protection the cares and treasures of his world.

At night, I think we heard these geese, from their home on a nearby shore. Long foghorn croaks sang up to the waxing moon. Tomorrow the moon will be full. At first we thought the croaks were frogs, but now I wonder. Since that dinner of dandelions on the lawn, several things have happened, and some things have changed.

First, to begin again at the beginning, our mother and dear friend Peter, after pausing for that sunset portrait, have said their goodbyes to us and headed home. It was just lucky for us that we happened to take this photo that day at sunset as the geese were dining. Both Peter and his friend Bert, the proprietor of our house, have told us that geese can be a nuisance. Bert, although fond of them when they were small, has discouraged them from being too comfortable on the lawn. Yet we only met them there that once. All of us, both people and geese, were polite. So we did not need to chase each other away, and we all enjoyed that sunset.

Since then, also, there was a thunder storm. It knocked out the power for a few hours. From the window we watched the heavy rain, and counted less than a second after a shockingly bright and then loud bolt of thunder. Not long after came sirens and flashing red lights on the road that surrounds our lake. The trucks stopped south and east of us and put out a fire that we found the next day, still smoking from a five foot diameter ring of ash. Last night as the moon rose, I was listening for the now familiar sound of nearby foghorn honks at the lake.

Now the moon is full, but the midnight sounds are gone. Was it the thunderstorm? The light of the moon? Last night, the honking sounds were gone. And today, the family of geese is gone. I imagine the parents were following their cues. The weather is changing and the bright moon light is good for long days of flight, and also for finding uncertain places to sleep each each night. Before the cold and snow of winter descend here in the Canadian mountains, the family of geese have fattened themselves for the last time this year on the dandelions of our lawn.

The almost grown goslings, in the care of the parents, are flying south for the very first time in their lives. And so, this sunset marks more than a beautiful ending of a beautiful day. It is also the beginning of a brand new journey in a cycle of time. I won’t be here next spring, but still, I will always imagine young geese returning to this beautiful sanctuary where we once shared a sunset.