Friday, May 06, 2005

A Hallmark Moment

The path, little more than a trampled line through the new grass of the meadow, leads to a little clearing on an embankment above the river. Until last weekend's river clean up, there had been old mattresses and heaps of trash and clothing strewn all about. It certainly is a fine, relatively private congregating place, and obviously had been used for drinking parties and maybe even living. But it had been vacant all winter so we cleaned it out. It took a surprisingly short amount of time.

"Look !" said a young man. We approached. He pointed to a single, big egg in the sticks and dead leaves of the forest floor. "How sad," said a young woman. "An abandoned egg."

A single Canada goose watched us from the downstream end of the little glade. It sat on the ground, a big feathery loaf, and craned its languid head in our direction. Another goose paced on the meadow path, as if standing guard.

I returned to the glade yesterday, late, after work, to catch the last of the day's sun. Both geese were still there -- the sentry on the path, and the one within the clearing. I began to suspect it was a mother brooding her eggs and her protective mate. I leaned against a tree at the water's edge and peered through some branches at the goose. Six feet below, a few dozen yards past the old milldam, the brown water rushed past. There was a big, broken, empty egg at my feet, probably the same one we'd seen a week ago. I took some pictures of it. Then the brooding goose, maybe ten feet away, stood and began to preen her chest. Beneath her was a clutch of six, big eggs.

I took two pictures -- downcurved neck and bill, the vast gray chest, the eggs -- and tiptoed out. The sentry, surprisingly enough, neither rushed nor hissed at me. I thought of the female goose sitting there, patient, through the cold spring night. Through the weekend's promised cold downpours. Just as she'd wintered amidst the ice and trash of the cove.

I wished her happy mother's day and left.

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