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Sunday, March 16, 2014

Lone Goose

The other night while taking our older dog Mimi (her name is Miacha, a Cheyenne word meaning “little fire”) outdoors I reveled in the softness of a late winter’s evening.
Temperatures had been mild; some observers had noted 60 degrees on their thermometers. The earth, once frozen iron hard now yielded slightly with each footstep. The eight inches of Wednesday’s snowfall silently vanished in the areas exposed to sunlight. There was little doubt; Spring is indeed in the offing.
Our home looks from a bluff upon a minor tributary river of Lake Erie. The now barren ash, walnut, and cottonwood trees permit an unimpeded view of the river and the low-lands dotted by marinas below. Much like the calendar, the river has her seasons. They are far too complex to discuss at this time; perhaps some other time.
Mimi would pause, lifting her now gray muzzle to the fresh, warm breeze. Faintly, I could detect the rich fragrance of damp earth, the unique damp freshness only the newly thawed river can emit, and grilled beef drifting from the kitchen of the restaurant on the opposite riverbank.
Perking her ears forward, Mimi looked toward the darkening sky. Then, I heard it….the plaintive, lone “ree-honk” of a solitary Canada goose winging over the river.  Apparently it was separated from the flock (for you nit-pickers out there, geese in the air are called a “flock”, while a group of geese on the ground is a “gaggle”), I could sense the anxiety the poor bird must have felt. Straining my ears, I could not detect any welcoming call in reply.
We stood in the increasing darkness, silently listening as the lonesome goose flew further up-stream, unanswered for all we knew.
I felt, more than saw Mimi turn toward me. Looking in her direction, I could make out the gray of her once black face as she gazed my way. I sensed her deep appreciation for a loving family, a cozy place to sleep, and never having known the pangs of hunger or thirst; as only a dog can express.
I don’t know the circumstances surrounding the bird’s separation. Had it been dawdling when the others left? Had it determined to venture on its own? Had it become weary, only to drop far behind the V formation? Or, had its way been lost due to wind and storm?
Bending, I stroked Mimi’s ear, our signal meaning “Okay, let’s go in.”  Slowly, she turned to dotter along beside me with her age stiffened hops. Slowing my pace to match hers, we took our time; there was no need to rush.
I bent to give her a boost up our front stoop. As I leaned close, she turned toward me, planting a light, gentle lick on my cheek.
And…..we once again heard the lonely call as the goose passed over the river.  From the darkened school yard across the road from our home came two, three, and then four answering calls. The lone goose’s call immediately changed from mournful to joyous as it flew directly overhead. I smiled and patted Mimi upon hearing the noisy welcoming chuckles upon its arrival.  Glancing at Miacha, I am certain there was a smile on her face, dimly illuminated by the post light.
Later, I lay awake, waiting for sleep to come. How many times are we like that lone goose? We tend to go our own way, relying upon our own devices. We believe we have an unerring sense of direction for our lives; usually to discover our internal compass is a bit out of whack. And, we tend to minimize the importance of family and personal relationships.
With a sigh,  I rolled over, stroking my Lovely Brides flowing hair. Mimi’s snoring provided a comforting lullaby. While offering silent thanks for all I have, a soft, contented goose call sounded in the darkness. I smiled, and drifted off to sleep.

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