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Perspective: Show some love for the Canada geese

wild geese
Chris Fink

The best thing to do on a clear December morning, when you’re feeling blue, is to go to the river to see the Canada geese. With geese you never have to wonder if they’ll be there. Where else would they be? If there’s open water, there’s geese. Some people disparage geese and call them sky carp. But how you see geese depends on where you see them. I think it’s best to look at geese on a wild part of the river. A raft of geese will catch the current and float with it, letting the river meander them to a quiet part, where they slough together like decoys. Soon a few geese will take a loud notion to fly upstream; they’ll land above the riffle and ride the current back down. The geese make the river look better, and the river makes the geese look better too.

Every part of a goose looks good against the water. The sleek black neck looks good; the cut white chinstrap looks good under the black beak; even the dun plumage looks good flowing back to meet the black tail.

Geese aren’t just there to be looked at. They’re always gabbling. When they go somewhere, they announce it, and when they arrive, they announce that too. Scientists think that one reason geese honk is to encourage one another.

I would like to offer evidence that geese honk to encourage me. A pondering sort of goose, I sometimes just float along. But today I was encouraged to speak. I waited for a lull in the goose orchestra, and then I opened my beak, and honked.

Chris Fink is a professor of English and Environmental Studies at Beloit College. He is the author of Farmer's Almanac, A Work of Fiction.