“The bird is no one’s servant. He is not dapper. Words only obscure him…Even the name, ‘bullfinch’ seems a form of littering, like a sticky label fixed to his feathers….the bird looked at me and I saw the bird and wanted to undo language and let him be. The bird just was.”
From The Wren, The Wren by Anne Enright
Jon and I sit on the chairs under the apple tree. Zip is snuggled into Jon’s shoulder and the sheep come in from the pasture to see if it’s time for hay. The donkeys know better and continue grazing on the yellow tufts of grass growing in dense clumps.
Then the geese come.
It’s late afternoon and I hear them before I can see them. The individual barks blend into an undulating chorus. I watch the pale gray sky, clouds thick enough to conceal the distant mountains, but not the low flying geese.
Slowly they begin to appear, a blurry, dark, unfocused line that gradually becomes more and more defined.
As it gets closer, I can see that it is in constant motion. What a moment ago looked like a solid line becomes a dotted one, made of individual geese.
I think of the shapes shallow water takes as it flows over rocks.
I stretch my neck looking up then behind me as they fly over. Just as quickly as they disappear behind us, I hear the faint call of more geese coming from the vanished mountains.
Now the lines of geese are closer together, coming in like waves one after the other.
Some are chevrons, one side longer than the other, a few stragglers breaking the rules here and there. Some lines are like that game you play with a rope, whipping it back and forth so it serpentines while people try to jump over it. Only in slow motion. They are the white foamy edge of spent waves as they leave their dark mark in the dry ocean sand.
Jon and I watch stunned as the geese continue to come. We wonder why they are headed north. “Maybe it’s the lake,” I say, “they are going to there to spend the night on the water where it is safe.”
As much as I’m in the moment, I’m also trying to describe to myself what I am experiencing.
If I had my iPhone with me I could take a video. But it’s Saturday, my sabbath from technology so I purposely left my phone in the house. Anyway, I know any video I could take wouldn’t be able to capture what I’m seeing and hearing. What I’m feeling.
Just the act of taking the video would remove me a degree from the experience. It would interrupt the feeling and make my thoughts unnecessary.
As all of this goes through my head, I think of Anne Enright’s words about the bullfinch from her book The Wren The Wren.
I want to be so in the moment that I just allow what I’m seeing, hearing and feeling to” be”. I want my mind to stop pulling up images of what those wavering lines of geese remained me of. I want to forget that the formation they fly in has a name. I don’t want to think of the word “honk” when they are so close I can hear the sound (that I don’t have a name for) that their wings make.
But I also want to be able to share what I am seeing and hearing. To tell you about the wonder of so many hundreds of geese blessing us with their presence as Jon and I sit outside on a cold afternoon in December.