The Story of the GirlChapter Two continued
I visited the Girl regularly during the spring, summer and fall of 2003. She was always happy to see me but not always interested in food, which meant she was faring well.
One day I arrived just as she and the flock were getting ready to move down river. I hardly expected her to stay behind just to visit with me and told her so. A very intelligent goose, the Girl wanted to think it over. She looked at the flock swimming away and then at me several times until, finally, she hopped up onto the bank, ate some corn, had a brief chat, and then flew off to catch up with the flock.
On hot afternoons in July and August the Girl would gaze longingly at the corn bucket but refuse to leave the cool water. I found a way to stretch out and lean over the embankment so that all she had to do was swim over and stick her bill into a cup filled to the rim with corn.
“Lazy Girl,” I would tease her, as she honked and beeped happily in between gulps. It was the least I could do. I had caused her enough trouble.
China White geese love sweets and the Girl was no different. She had become a junk food junkie, greedily gobbling the doughnuts, cookies and bread that visitors brought to feed the waterfowl. She was bold and walked right up to people sitting on benches eating their lunches. I worried that begging made her vulnerable to harm, so I rarely touched her myself, much as I wanted to. If, I reasoned, she became accustomed to me petting her, she might let someone else who had other intentions.
Through the autumn, the Girl ate all the corn I could feed her, which helped her put on much needed fat for the winter. In November I often found her alone at the dam and worried that her adopted flock had flown off and left her behind. I was relieved to see her there on Thanksgiving Day accompanied by three Canada Geese. One seemed protective of her and might have become her mate. The Girl gorged herself on corn while her wild companions waited patiently, nibbling on weeds that still remained in the shallows. When she left to join them, I said goodbye and wished her well.
A few days later a Nor’easter brought nearly three feet of snow, but it all melted during a mild spell two weeks later. When the temperature hovered near 60 degrees, I decided to look for the Girl in case she was hungry. I took it as a good sign that she wasn’t there.
In January relentless, record-breaking cold locked up the rivers and streams. A luminous full Wolf Moon cast silver shadows across the frozen landscape, and bursts of powdery snow from distant ocean squalls dusted the hemlocks white.
When the temperature dipped below zero, as it did so many nights, my thoughts turned to the Girl. I hoped she had shelter – domestic geese suffer frostbite easily. I knew her ability to survive two winters in the wild was a testament to her extraordinary strength and will, but I had hoped the winter of 2004 would be kinder to her.
For as long as I can remember I have always been drawn to geese. Sometimes I wonder if I am some incarnation of their kind. One day I want to live in a farmhouse with acres of land and a pond for China Whites. They will have a sturdy barn with beds of hay to sleep in on cold winter nights and all the corn they can eat.
Until then, I wanted to look after the Girl for as long as the Fates allowed. Her friendship had become a wellspring of solace and cheer. Her unfailing memory of me matched my happy dedication to her. She was a constant reminder that hope gives life meaning. Loving her had made me better than I was.
...to be continued