Wednesday, January 14, 2015


At some point in my spiritual journey, I came to realize that Goose had a special significance to my life. 

Tradition has it that Goose is a spirit connected to family, ancestors and home.  As I  look back at my life’s journey, I see Goose as a prominent presence, certainly from the time I was ten years old and I began to fully recognize my love for and connection to birds.  As a youngster in the Midwest, the great vees of migrating geese winging high overhead, calling so loudly that their voices would reach me far below, always stirred in me something wild and free—yet connected, somehow, to All There Is.   

When I was in junior high, my family “discovered” Horicon Marsh—a wildlife reserve a couple hours’ drive from our home.   There we experienced for the first time the wild melee of thousands of migrating Canada geese, hundreds-strong flocks rising, landing, circling calling…  We would pile in the car, and go to this place, and all of the contractions and explosions of a young family coming of age in turbulent times would calm.  It was a place you went to just BE in the presence of…we called it “Nature” then, but I know now it is so much more. 

Family.  Ours was complicated from the start…but whose isn’t?  We didn’t grow up “knowing” our paternal grandparents, partly because they were 2000 miles away, and partly because we had been brought up with a misty, non-specific knowledge that my mother had some issue with her in-laws, or they with her…or both.  Even so, in my eleventh year, my family made the trek from suburban Chicago to Grants Pass, Oregon, where Dad’s parents lived.  Turns out my Grandfather was a wonderful, gentle man, whom we could tell instantly had been saddened by the fact of the extreme distance between him and his son’s family.  He set out, in his quiet way, to let us know this (without overtly trampling upon the prejudices of the Matriarch, to whom he was selflessly devoted.)

By and by I came to understand that my love of the outdoors was passed down to me through this man.   I was enchanted by the birds he drew to his one-acre semi-rural property, and fascinated by his National Geographic “Song and Garden Birds” book and its accompanying album of bird song.  We left Oregon with that book, lovingly inscribed “to the junior B’s” tucked carefully among our photos and souvenirs of our trip. 

Four years later, my widowed Grandfather made the long cold trip to Illinois in November to spend Thanksgiving with the family (and his first great-grandchild, who had been born the previous spring.)  We took him to Horicon Marsh, where it was obvious that he, too, was awed—expanded and humbled at the same time—by the pure enveloping cacophony of it all. 

A decade would pass before I would be pierced by the first message I remember receiving straight from the Almighty to me personally.  I was driving home from work, and a vee of geese flew low overhead, silhouetted against the sunset.  And a voice in my head said, “This is what you are here for.”  At the time, I was a born-again fundamentalist Christian, so I didn’t fully understand the message.  Or I understood it to mean something else, something in line with the spirituality of that time in my life.  But now, I know it was so much more.

Some people go to a church to find peace and connection to the Spirit.  Some people go to the tops of mountains, some make pilgrimages to sites of religious significance.

When I want to feel the presence of the Almighty, the pure frenzied joy and chaotic connectedness, this is where I go:


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