We were able to spend a couple weeks up there at the end of August/beginning of September and there were so many things I wanted to share with this site, but I never got my butt in the chair to write. Here are a few of them:
The incredible rush of joy I felt when a pair of monarch butterflies showed up one day, cavorting in the air. "There've been scads of them lately," Richard said. They used to be so common, especially in our meadow which is teeming with one of their favorite treats, milkweed, but I hadn't seen any anywhere for a long time. Dire reports of their migratory numbers in Mexico dipping precipitously and reading books like "The Sixth Extinction" did not buoy hope. So seeing these 2 strangers doing their own aerial show filled me with such delight, made me airy with possibility. No, that's not it. Made me completely present in appreciating of that moment. Things are always passing by, passing through, passing. Just see it.
Our gardens have been miraculous. I haven't been around them most of the summer, off at work, but Richard would send reports. The beans and lettuces and chard and kale have been especially prodigious. Not hot enough for tomatoes, but that's fine. Everything else showed off with bounty. I screwed up a piece of our potato crop; cured them on our porch, neglecting to cover them with burlap, and they turned green (and poisonous) so I had to dump them. Rats. Live and learn.
Richard produced his 5th annual 48 hour Film Slam here and the combination of the enthusiastic community support for the project and the entrants becoming more and more sophisticated in their filmmaking technique and storytelling ability was ecstatically satisfying. People are so grateful to Richard for bringing something so creative to the area. You see everyone so filled with new LIFE. It's a wonderful early September tradition.
So the big news. We're about to travel up to Vermont to spend a couple days and then take our geese - Shmuel, Mary Ann, and Baby Dumplin' (their gander baby) - to a new home in CT, somewhere where they will be treated as pets and cared for. I include a piece of the letter I was going to send their new owner, but decided not to when Richard asked "to what end?" So I share it with you:
Your correspondence has been entirely through Richard, and I wanted an opportunity to express my gratitude that you will be providing a home for our dear geese, Mary Ann and Shmuel. As Richard may have mentioned, I’m letting them go with a heavy heart, though I see the wisdom in doing so. We had been keeping them mainly as pets, and being away in New York for a goodly chunk of the year, the daily upkeep, especially during the winter months, gets to be costly. So it’s time to let them go. And thank you for the invitation to come see them whenever I’d like. I will probably take you up on that kind gesture. So I pass on to you and your daughter a little background and praise of these beautiful creature’s time in our lives as a goodbye as well as an introduction. Writing that last sentence I conjured them swimming in our pond, this poetry in motion. There’s a poem by Rilke called “The Swan” where he juxtaposes the clumsy awkwardness of them on land with the glide and ease and grace of them in the water. It’s beautiful and suits my memory of our geese exactly.
Mary Ann and he sister Ginger were hatched in a makeshift incubator that Richard fashioned out of an old cooler. Very ingenious. They imprinted on us and followed us everywhere, to the top of the hill behind our house, swimming, everywhere. They were wary of us picking them up by instinct, but after the squawk and complaint of getting them, they eased into being in our arms and on our laps to a certain degree, usually chewing on something shiney, like our rings. Shmuel came into the picture about a year or so later. Richard combed the internet for a gander and found one in Massachusetts just across the Rhode Island border and I stopped to pick him up on my way up from New York one trip. A Jewish family had a compound just off a busy country road teeming with geese, chickens, and goats, and Shmuel was impressively large and the sire of most of the other geese at the place. I had to choose him. He took to the girls immediately, especially Mary Ann. They have been an inseparable couple almost from day one. Richard had wanted to change his name to “Professor” to keep a Gilligan’s Island theme, but I loved the name Shmuel, so it stayed. He’s been a great protector and father, though the siring offspring capacity has dwindled over the years. He’s territorial, but if you smack his beak a good one when he flutters his tail feathers and lowers his neck at you, he usually backs off. A good strong “NO!” with a pointed finger works too, but watch your finger; his bites can mean business. Both are usually very easy to shepherd into their holding pens when they acclimate to their surroundings. They love lettuce, parsley, dandelion leaves. I feel especially close to Shmuel because I nursed him back to health after he was attacked by a coydog while defending our flock of 5 (that year). He had 2 nasty fang marks on his neck and it was touch and go for awhile. I hydrogen peroxided the wounds, got some tetracycline for his water, quarantined him from the other geese for awhile, and fed him baby food through a turkey baster. He was so weak at first. I longed for the day when he’d give me a good bite, then I’d know he had his mojo back. It took about 4 months to get completely back to fine fettle, but he/we did it.
They’ve been wonderful birds. I marvel at how beautiful they are. Of course these days I’m taking in everything I can about them since I know my days around them are numbered. Probably my favorite time of day is at dusk when either I shepherd them slowly into their pen or watch them from a little distance shepherd themselves. It’s so meditative, the pace slow and sure, completely in sync with the day, nature. It’s lovely, predictable, a ritual, like monks walking to vespers. I’ll miss their conversation, Mary Ann’s tough, no nonsense deep whiskey voice, Shmuel’s trumpet call and wheezy comment and jabber when he’s figuring something out, commenting. I wish you enjoyment of both of them and I wish them an easy transition to living with your loving care."
Not looking forward to that trip, but I'll let you know how it goes. Chapters.