I saw them checking out the neighbourhood for weeks before they moved in. Don't know how long it took me to notice them. Not that long. They probably came by a couple of times.
Right away, as soon as I'd picked up they were thinking of moving into the neighbour, I knew it wasn't right for them.
"That's not a good place to lay eggs!" I'd shout across the water.
They'd glance my way but essentially ignore me. She'd fluff up her wings and settle right in for a suntan and he'd turn his head and pretend to examine the quality of the wood on the dock.
"Too exposed here" I'd imagine him pontificate to her. She'd twist her neck and give him a stare and wouldn't say anything. At least nothing I could hear. She'd just settle her wings down and he'd shuffle down the dock a bit and hang his head ~ and wait.
I'd get tired of watching and think, "Well I tried" and go off about my business.
Weeks this went on and then one day I noticed I hadn't seen them for awhile. "Good" I thought. "Decided not to". And life went on. I went nuts and then Fred & I got ourselves a slightly new location.
"It's better here Fred" I told Fred. "Quieter." I miss Pac & Ific Crow though. You know how the Crows are…do you think they'll eventually visit."
"They always do Sigred" Fred assured. "Don't worry."
We'd pretty much settled into our new spot. Fred was at work and I was at home trying to get my chores done when a ruckus set me to looking around. There they were, the couple I'd tried to warn off and another couple, flapping and honking at each other. At least the guys were. The female from The Couple was dancing around darting in and out & honking & flapping too but, it was the guys that were really going at it. They were on the back of a boat just down from us. The other female was off to the side in the water. She wasn't flapping but she'd throw a weak honk once in a while and sort of glide up to the guys and then dart back soon as she got within spitting distance.
"Good Grief!" I shouted out my back hatch. "What the hell is going on?"
I had no effect whatsoever.
Someone from the dock across came down a finger and started to watch them carrying on too. I got distracted for a second and when I turned my head back the two guys were in the water, still honking & flapping. Feathers were flying everywhere. The one female was still on the boat. I gotta tell you, she was making noises that for all the world sounded like sobbing. I shouted across the water to the fellow who had sauntered down the finger to check out the action but I wasn't heard over the ruckus and gave up.
In the end the whole thing lasted maybe five, maybe ten minutes. Not long but it seemed longer. The fellow across the dock turned and walked away, the goose guy I'd never seen before beat a retreat with his lady following and the goose guy from The Couple went over to the boat where his lady was, bent his head and spent some considerable time comforting and calming her down.
"Oh hell" I thought "What IS going on?"
Not wanting to pry, but not one to take no action, I kept an eye on them for awhile, going about doing my chores, but checking them out every so often. Once everything seemed to have settled down (he'd gone off for a swim and she seemed to be just sitting there all by herself) I sauntered over.
"Hi, I'm Sigr…." I started to say holding my hand out. She stood up fast and turned around with a hiss. I gotta tell you, it just stopped me cold. "Oh…." I said very softly once I'd seen. "I'm so sorry. Are you OK?"
She just stood there sort of shuddering for awhile and I stood by waiting, ready and willing to give help if I could. I figured she'd shoo me off, hiss at me again or something if she really wanted me to go, but she just stood there, little chest heaving, looking at me, looking down at her eggs and looking across at me again.
It took awhile and I'm not sure if I picked up all the details. Something about jealousy & egg shaking murderings & marshland & swamps & the old places (maybe ways?) not being any good any more & time running out & even something, I'm not sure, maybe something about me yelling at them. I don't know. She knew I meant her no harm. I know that, but there was this language (?) barrier and she was REALLY upset.
After awhile she calmed down. She started rearranging the eggs and eventually told me her name was Ada.
"Is your mate's name Can?" I asked as a quip, hoping to lighten things up.
That startled her. "How did you know?" she asked.
Ada told me she & Can had finally decided on a boat because she was desperate. Something about Can being a good goose and loving her and…well…to make this part of a long story short, in the end Ada settled back down on her eggs and I walked away home with my fingers crossed that everything would be OK.
After that I figured out that Ada really wasn't much of a visiting sort. I thought "OK sure". We'd duck our heads to each other in the mornings. A friendly nod. Can would be off doing whatever Can did when he was off and Ada would just spend her days sitting there keeping things warm. One morning however, she surprised me by honking over, "We've given them names!"
My hearing's not that good. I figured I'd been invited so I sauntered over (Can was out) and Ada & I had a good morning gabble clatch.
"Two girls and four boys!" Ada gushed at me. "Can's so proud!".
"How do you know if they're boys or girls?" I asked.
She just winked at me. I hate birds for that. They never feel any sort of obligation to give an explanation. They just do their thing, flying here, swimming there, nesting wherever they want to.
"This one's Brit & and this is Sasky." She continued gushing. "Aren't they cute!"
Are all new mothers insufferable?
"And this is Ab, Mano and Ontarianus" she communicated to me, beaking each egg in turn. "We named Ontarianus after Can's rich Uncle Ontarianus. Ya never know" she gobbled "Ya never know".
"And this…" she paused and got…I don't know…a far away, maybe hurt look in her eye "And this is Quebee."
She looked me pretty hard in the eye then. I was forced to duck my head. Stared down by a bird.
"Quebee's the one that got shaken the worse when they were fighting that day. I wanted to thank you. Don't know if Quebee'll make it" she hissed quietly out of the corner of her beak.
I didn't know what to say. I wasn't sure I'd understood what she'd said to me. I hate that! I never know what to say when there's this great big hole. All I want to do is fill it & all I've got to fill it with are words. Empty air for empty air.
"Still" I heard quite clearly "the rest are OK."
I swear that goose had a sympathetic look in her eye for me. Like she knew something I didn't know. Like maybe she knew I was trying to figure out if I was nuts or not. Like maybe she knew the answer to that question.
"We'll have to see about Quebee." I heard. "He may have separated."
Ada sighed a goose sigh and then for all intent and purpose she dismissed me with a queenly wave of her neck.
I kow-towed back to my boat, not put out by the dismissal. I understand new Moms and all the things on their minds and we continued after that with our benign somewhat distant relationship. Can and I never really communicated. He was wary of me. Probably worried that I might be putting foreign ideas into Ada's head. Ada had told me (flapping her big webbed feet & rolling her eyes, girl goose laughing) about Can's concerns that they were having their family on the back of a boat instead of in a proper nest in a proper marshlands like his Gander and his GrandGander and all before him.
Most birds are irritating that way. Traditionalists and so superior (!) yet it doesn't take anything to ruffle their feathers.
And then one morning uninvited (I hadn't seen Ada that morning and I was wondering what was up) I went over to check on them and they were gone. All the eggs were hatched except one. Quebee sat there all alone with a large crack going through his shell and blood was smearing through the crack.
"Oh poor Quebee" I thought despite myself, knowing Ada would feel sorry for me somehow for having that notion.
Nevertheless I took poor Quebee in my sweaty little hand, rotten egg stench hitting me like a hammer and threw him in the water. Burial at sea. Next I thought about Pac & Ifica Crow who had finally come for a visit the day before. I was grateful for even the little things that come to fill up that big hole. I realized, that despite our somewhat distant relationship, I had become quite attached to Can & Ada.
"That's what you get for taking up with birds Sigred" I sang in my head. "You know they're bird brains Sigred. They'll just do what birds do. Don't forget!"
I gave myself a good mental slap and went about my business. A few days later Fred & I ran away to anchor for a couple of days. The trip over to Thetis Island was rough. FloCat threw up and one of our boat plants tried to commit plantacide. I spent most of the trip cleaning up wet dirt and hairballs. Feeling a bit queezy myself, having spent far too much time on my knees as opposed to staring into the horizon, by the time we got anchored and everything had settled down I just wanted a good cup of tea, a good book and a good sleep. I managed all those things as well as putting Can & Ada Goose safely into a nicely padded but locked cupboard in my mind.
The trouble with locked cupboards & story book endings & graphic effects & Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, is that eventually the cupboard has to get opened, life goes on after the story book ending(s), somebody has to pay the graphic artist because the graphic artist needs to eat & Lucy's balloons need to be pumped up with air from time to time. So, there I am, sitting at anchor, feeling somewhat melancholy (about an egg), soaking up some late spring sun, thinking about maybe getting a paint brush out to touch up the paint on the bulwarks and from behind me comes this faint mocking honk and goose laughter. I rolled my eyes up into my head, set about steeling myself to be bettered by a bird, and turned around. Sure enough it was Can & Ada Goose but with just one gosling.
"Oh Hi Ada, Hi Can" I shouted across the water, trying to be casual as the small group came gliding towards me. "Fancy meeting you here!" I exclaimed and then lost my short lived cool. "Who's this? Where are the rest? I saw what happened to Quebee. Are you OK?" The last comment was directed to Ada.
Once again I heard mocking goose twittering. Even the gosling, trying to be polite (turning sideways) was peeping goose humour at me.
"What?! What?!" I wondered, but knew not to ask.
"This is Sasky" Can honked at me. I was surprised Can spoke up first even though Ada seemed to be lagging behind him. Like I said, Can and I never really communicated when we were neighbours. "Sasky's been having a little trouble getting her driver's licence so Ada & I thought maybe a bit of personal attention would help and look (!) she's driving like a trooper now".
"Ah…" I thought "Father proud. He's talking to me so he can brag about his kids."
"Wow!" I said out loud to Ada who had by now caught up. "Where are the other chicks?"
"Left 'em on the beach over there" Ada hissed to me with a shake of her neck and head. "They're fine" she reassured.
"I threw Quebee into the ocean" I blurted out.
Can started to tell me something but Ada shot over and gave him a beak and pulled out one of his tail feathers.
"Hey!" Can croaked "What'd you do that for?"
Ada came up real close to Can and ran her neck over his, passing her beak and lingering for just a second where I guess (?) goose ears are (I don't know) and then backed off. She then bit and poked Sasky with her beak but gentle-like, a mother's poke. Sasky looked up and then Ada turned to Can again and commanded, "Take Sasky over to that other boat". Ada shot her neck, pointing off in the distance at a fine old restored Trumpy anchored across the bay. "Those people throw seeds. Go show Sasky off. Me and Sigred, we're going to talk for just a bit. Female talk. I'll be right over" she reassured him.
Sasky darted around, excited by the thought of good quality seeds thrown on the water and giggling goose baby giggles. Can backed off immediately, nodded his head to me and turned around. Sasky chugged after him, her cute little baby behind wiggling desperately to keep up with her Gander. She didn't forget her manners though. She made sure to peep at me "Pleased to meet you!" without Ada even reminding her.
Soon as they were out of ear shot Ada turned and gabbled "Sigred!" Harsh like, she was. Pay attention! "Sigred (!) you know we're not supposed to be communicating this way and it's got to stop!"
I didn't say anything. Common sense coming to you from a bird is humbling.
"Birds and Heavies" she continued "We're not the same. Heavies dwell. Thank you for giving me the idea to have my eggs on that boat though. It worked! I left Quebee behind for you on purpose. Think about it! What's it to me?" she asked or maybe pointed out (I was pretty confused at this point). "I'm a bird Sigred. A female Canada Goose to be exact." She kinda fluffed up her feathers at this point. Proud like. "I know you're worried Sigred. I talked to The Crows. Nasty black birds usually" she goose muttered, "but they watch out for the Eagles. We Canadian Geese, we're rather appreciating that these days."
Have you ever seen a beatific goose smile?
"Anyways" she gaggled, "Can & I have been clucking about this. I couldn't believe it when Can shot off with Sasky to show her off to you. He knows he's not supposed to pick favourites but he's got a soft spot in his gizzard for Sasky." Ada shook her goosy head. "You come out here again and I'll send the kids by, but I gotta tell ya, this whole thing is giving me the creeps. I can't deal with it. Birds & Heavies are NOT supposed to talk to each other!"
I'm thinking "Heavies?" and musing again about the super-traditionalism that keeps birds & Heavies (?) apart.
"Thank you again" Ada half-note honked at me as she slipped away. "We're keeping an eye on the Eagles too Sigred. I'll tell Ifica Crow if I see anything really scary & she'll tell Pac. Pac likes you Sigred. Something about an ancient cousin of his? Go figure Crows.
Try not to worry Sigred" she beaked at me from half way across the bay.
Last I heard from Ada was an air horn honk "...and don't you feed any of my babies with sugar when I send them by."
And that was that.
I waved, shook my head, looked at the spring sun shining down on me, got up and went looking for that paint brush to paint the bulwarks with & continued trying to figure out if I was nuts or not.