The Story of the Girl begins with the posting on January 8th. My true account spans a four-year period from 2001-2005. This is the third and final chapter.The Story of the Girl
“And we ourselves shall be loved for a while and forgotten. But the love will have been enough; all those impulses of love return to the love that made them.” — Thornton Wilde
Resilient as the Girl was, many other waterfowl were not so lucky. In the winter of 2004, scores of them fell victim to January’s unprecedented, month-long cold spell, and biologists observed that Canada Geese were especially hard hit. One evening, the news confirmed it: as the reporter spoke, a camera panned an icy riverbank where several frozen carcasses lay strewn like forgotten toys, their feathers ruffling eerily in the icy wind. That image haunted me.
All birds have strong homing instincts and geese are no exception. Exactly how and why this instinct works remains a mystery, but some scientists attribute it to their ability to sense the Earth’s magnetic fields and use the sun and stars to navigate direction. Others believe their genetic programming enables them to respond to visual guides, such as landmarks and bodies of water.
The Girl followed her homing instinct and returned to the dam on March 6, 2004, marking the end of the coldest winter in Massachusetts since 1888. It was the same date she had returned after her first winter in the wild two years earlier. I can’t explain why, but I felt compelled to look for her that very day. The fact that she had waited until June to return in 2003 gave me pause. But, like the Girl, I followed my instinct anyway.
Driving home from Sunday brunch at a nearby country inn, I found myself taking a detour to the dam. As I approached, I could see the Girl from the road, standing on the bank with her flock. An immense feeling of relief flooded through me as I hurried to greet her. Once more, against all odds, the Girl had survived a long and brutal New England winter. Each year since she and her flock had been abandoned, I had marked her return as a joyous event. But now I was more than happy, I was grateful.