Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A true fall day.

Early October, 2009

Today has been a true fall day: clear, cool in the shade, warm in the sun, and breezy. I’ve been working out in the gardens and in the hoop house, planting and transplanting, building cold frames, and adding garden refuse to the compost heap.

The first flock of geese went over sometime in mid-morning. A low-flying, ragged formation, making a racket, like a committee whose discussion has degenerated into a shouting match. I was pulling out the tomato plants, setting aside the good tomatoes to ripen indoors, and the geese made such a commotion I had to step outside the hoop house to see what was the matter, imagining that some raptor had flown too close, and expecting to see geese flying in all directions. And while they were indeed an ill-formed bunch, more of an airborne pileup, they were all going and simply making a lot of noise. Perhaps they were new recruits assigned to form their own flock, and hadn’t yet figured out how to fall in, but had lots of ideas on how best to do it.

The next flock went over not long after, and I barely heard it from inside the plastic shelter of the hoop house, so high were they. I put down the turning fork, listened for a moment, then stepped over the tomato cages, (tripped over is more like it) and went out for a look. I had to hunt around the sky for a minute, but they were up there, a faint, long, strung-out V, a little lopsided but clear and steady, and earnest in their work. Their honks sounded like each goose was contributing to a vocal rythmic encouragement, or making occasional reports from the periphery. They came from the direction of Mt. Lafayette, and sheared off toward the Hudson Valley, I thought. I wondered where they would be at nightfall. I wonder if my brother saw them later in the day, down in Delmar…

The third group (now it’s almost lunch time) was large and determined, and low enough so I could hear the wind of their wingbeats. Shuffshuffshuffshuff…Not much talk, but while over my head a couple of birds broke rank from the rear and churned up the middle, then out the front of the V, altering course just slightly in the shift change, and the birds slid back on each side to make room, and then another came charging forward. It looked like a squadron of veterans.

Another high flock, so high it took two minutes anyway to find them, up in the blue void of the mid-afternoon. So faint, I couldn’t see how big a group it was at once, but my eyes slowly picked them out, and they kept stretching on and on, and reminded me of the stories about the huge flocks of passenger pigeons from the 1800’s, which could extend for miles and miles, and millions of birds, until we shot them all, every last one. These geese were out of range, and I could never see the whole flock at once, so faint were they.

The last bunch of the day wasn’t too big, nor too high, nor too noisy, nor too disorganised or too orderly. But it was getting on toward sundown, and they had an air of… well, one sensed they knew that it was getting on, that the day was running out, but that they had to push on, even hurry on, perhaps even through the night. There was nothing leisurely about them. “Come on!” “Let’s go!” I even shouted after them: “Go go go!”

It was a varied and sporadic parade that day, but they were all headed south.

-- Caleb

1 comment:

S@sha said...


This came up in my blog reader today (the date didn't show up) and freaked me out a little because I live in New Mexico and we've been getting geese flying over for weeks now. I couldn't understand how it could just be starting in Vermont.

The sound of the geese way up above is my favorite-- its so faint that its almost as if its just your memory of geese. You might be imagining it.

Your gardens are enviable!