Life Lessons from the Branta canadensis

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“I stand in the middle of perfection.
There is no one else around me.
The cries of the geese are beautiful.
They hold only joy, not a trace of fear.”

[R. Bass, A Great Migration]

There isn’t much mystery here; anyone who has viewed my images knows that geese feature prominently, in fact I’ve been asked just how many pictures one needs of geese. As for me, I quite adore them – how they look, their values and their personalities. In many ways, they are quite like us humans, most notably in their relationships and strong family ties.

Life Lesson: Commitment

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Canada geese mate for life. There is a definite courtship during which time the geese very carefully (and wisely) choose their partner. Once selected, the couple are never apart from each other, theirs is a veritable ’til death do us part union. Wildlife enthusiasts have observed cases where mates have refused to leave the side of a sick or injured partner, even in the presence of danger to themselves including hunters, predators, and severe weather. It is heartbreakingly true that a widowed goose will leave the gaggle and spend the end of days alone, mourning their much-beloved partner.

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Life Lesson: Love

They are a romantic breed, our Canada geese. Many of you may not have thought that Canada geese fall in love, but they do. For them, every day is date day. It’s quite true – the gander spends all his days cherishing his mate, caressing her neck, preening her and generally displaying loving kindness and care. This is not foreplay either, geese only mate once each year, in the spring, followed by approximately one month of sitting on the nest ’til the goslings hatch so… Ten months’ of romantic, passionate, tender and celibate ardour. Are you swooning yet? Are you jealous?

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Life Lesson: The Home

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Ready for the mating season, Canada Geese seem to enjoy gathering debris – dead reeds and grasses, twigs and small branches, even some bark – whatever is close to their preferred marshy ecosystem. Many of the pairs prefer to use the same nest year after year. Even when they do return to their old nest, the gathering of materials will begins again in order to make the necessary renovations and repairs ready for the next brood to arrive.

Life Lesson: Family Values

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Canada Geese have very strong family ties which is, perhaps their closest link with humans. Parenting is shared equally between the gander and goose. Unlike many other avian species, dad is a full participant in child-rearing and stays involved with the goslings until they are quite mature adults.

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The juveniles seem to take a long time to mature – mentally and physically. During this period there are antics and capers that go awry requiring many corrections from both mum and dad. I’m quite sure this transitional period, charting their course to adulthood, is a similarly trying time for their parents, just like with human ‘tweens’ and ‘teens’.

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Nevertheless, it is not at all uncommon to find the adult offspring living with or very close by the parents long after maturity – at least until they have selected a mate of their own. The family bonds are strong and clearly visible to observers.

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Gaudiloquent Geese

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Of course, at one time or another, or maybe many times, you’ve been rudely interrupted by the cacophony of the skein, passing directly overhead. Perforce, conversation is put on hold until the honkers have passed by. But did you ever pause to consider wether their voices were fearful or joyful? Me? I’m siding with Mr. Bass: They hold only joy, not a trace of fear.

In their traditional V pattern, Canada geese are in constant communication with one another, perhaps calling out from the back Hey Syd, are you okay up there? followed by the enthusiastic response Sure thing, Freddie, I’ve got a few more miles of leading left in me yet. All members of the skein constantly honking their support and inspiration, cheering the leaders on every flap of the wing. Since many geese fly thousands of miles each way whilst migrating, conserving energy and buoying any flagging spirits is essential teamwork. So, next time the gaudiloquent ruckus passes overhead, think of it as a joyful noise, and of the geese as happy and content fliers.

Gaggle

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Yes, a group of geese is called a ‘gaggle’, but only when they’re on the ground. When they are flying, if they are in their trademark V-formation, the correct noun is a ‘skein’ and if flying in a tight cluster, the correct noun is a ‘plump’.

Life Lesson: Esprit de Corps

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Whilst on the ground and in the water, multiple families of geese unite into a gaggle, all the better to protect each other. Depending upon the size of the group and its vulnerability, there will be two or more watchmen ‘patrolling’ the perimeter to allow the others to forage in peace. This security detail is eventually relieved by others who in turn keep watch. Younger, stronger, healthier geese will always take care of the elderly, injured, and sick birds, protecting them, helping them forage and even feeding them. One for all and all for one.

“I stand in the middle of perfection.
There is no one else around me.
The cries of the geese are beautiful.
They hold only joy, not a trace of fear.”

[R. Bass, A Great Migration]

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Although I did not pen those words, I sure wish I did for they perfectly describe the feelings I get, sitting by the lagoon at Presqu’ile watching the various couples and families go about their daily business. They never cease to make me smile, make me happy and teach me life lessons, Branta canadensis-styles. So to my lovely, funny, dedicated, #1 subscriber, my answer is a resounding “NO!” I can never have too many shots of Canada Geese.

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‘Til next time, y’all…

 

 

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❝You’ve Got To Be Taught❞

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In the words of Lt. Joseph Cable, U.S.M.C:

You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You’ve got to be taught
From year to year,
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You’ve got to be carefully taught!

[Music by Richard Rodgers; Lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II]

No doubt about it, South Pacific is most well known for the magnificent ballad Some Enchanted Evening. Each of the world’s leading tenors seems to have recorded the beautiful love song and believe you me, I’m not immune to its charms. However, there is a world of wisdom in the words penned for Lt. Cable by Mr. Hammerstein II nearly seventy years ago – wisdom that is every bit as relevant today as it was back in April 1949 when the show first opened on Broadway.

You’ve got to be taught, To hate and fear, You’ve got to be taught, From year to year… The lesson, I think, is that the opposite is also true and paramount in our lives today; you’ve got to be taught to include, to honour, to love, and above all else, to be kind. To everyone. Always. Of course, His Holiness the Dalai Lama said it best: “Be kind, whenever possible. It is always possible.”

Saturday night, watching CTV report the breaking news from London, I experienced a wide range of emotions – incredulity, horror, sadness, dread and anxiety. Mostly, I felt completely dismayed at the level of hatred that seems to be the world we all inhabit. You’ve got to be taught, To hate and fear, You’ve got to be taught, From year to year… Hysterical Islamophobia reared its ugly head following the attack and that particular brand of hatred was splattered all over social media – perhaps fuelled by the anti-Muslim rhetoric that was such a big part of the recent US and French presidential elections. An invitation and/or license to hate.

Grandmother Eve

You’ve got to be taught before it’s too late…
To hate all the people your relatives hate…

Humans alive on the planet today are known as Homo sapiens sapiens. This is not a typo – the second “sapiens” creates a distinction from the ancient species, Homo sapiens. It is a fact, supported by genetic science from all major universities and research facilities, that all modern man (sapiens sapiens) are in fact descendants of the same woman from Ethiopia, referred to as Mitochondrial Eve. We all share her DNA, can all trace our lineage back to Eve in Ethiopia. She is Grandmother to every single human being alive today. Amazing, right? Everyone on earth is related to each other. If that fact were to be taught to all children, would that knowledge change the way they think about each other? Relate to each other? To hate all the people your relatives hate… Surely it’s very hard if not impossible to hate one’s own relatives.

Most of us have cherished memories of our grannies, and we loved them very dearly. Often that skipped generation yields a fondness and closeness that is much different from the bond we share with our parents. Identifying with those women, understanding our our roots and origins through those women is an easy concept to grasp. Not so much the connection with our Ethiopian granny from thousands of generations before us which is a real shame.

#chrissiesentme

The first life taken on London Bridge on Saturday night was that of Christine Archibald, originally from British Columbia.

You’ve got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff’rent shade,
You’ve got to be carefully taught.

The statement from the grieving Archibald family was not one of anger nor of hatred nor of fear. Despite their tragic loss, their message was of love and kindness:

“She had room in her heart for everyone and believed strongly that everyone was to be valued and respected.”

“She would have had no understanding of the callous cruelty that caused her death.”

“Please honour her by making your community a better place. Volunteer your time and labour or donate to a homeless shelter.”

“Tell them Chrissy sent you.”

The Archibald family demonstrated the message of Mr. Hammerstein’s lyrics. With that one poignant statement, delivered by a family friend, they taught us to help the less fortunate, to be kind to and respectful of all people, to work to strengthen our own communities, and to love one another. What a beautiful tribute, and for those of us accepting the challenge, a fitting tribute to this lovely young woman. #chrissiesentme

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“Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”
[Ephesians 4:xxxi-xxxii, KJV]

‘Til next time, y’all…