I’ve been in love, forever, with the sight and sound of Canada geese as they fly over my house, skimming the roof or at high altitude, at dusk or dawn, season-round. Here near Lake Ontario – just about as close to Canada as we can get – most geese leave in the fall and return in the spring, but quite a few over-winter. These stragglers wake me in the morning – sometimes a whole crew of them, sometimes just a pair squawking as they wing toward the lake. Later they signal when the day is done, heading back to some swampy night-time grove or maybe just taking a spin for exercise. Their calls fill me with longing and devotion; their calls, for me, might be the equivalent of gospel songs to others. They incite wanderlust, they make me want to belong to a tribe, to leave and return…
I don’t know what their calls mean, but I believe they mean something. Whether they signal direction, (veer north!), or they’re cranking about position, (get out of my way!), or whether they’re phrases in an avian vocabulary about difficulty – how much effort is required to fly, the precision needed to create that giant V in the sky – I can’t guess. Maybe it’s a language of pleasure, maybe the geese are exhilarated and so they sing out. Could be those honks are laughter, or orgasmic utterances. Or maybe the mechanics of vocalization are connected to the wing in some incomprehensible map of bird physiology or neurology, and so for each wing beat there is a commensurate sound uttered.
I do know this: sometimes the geese are silent as they fly. And that is spooky and lovely, too, like some alphabet unwinding in the sky, and only those lucky enough to look up can hope to ever decipher it.
Photo credit: IAN Image and Video Library