“One swallow does not make a summer, but one skein of geese, cleaving the murk of a March thaw, is spring,” Aldo Leopold begins his chapter on March in A Sand County Almanac.
While ruminating on the yearly patterns of geese, Leopold wonders, “Is education possibly a process of trading awareness for things of lesser worth? The goose who trades his [awareness] is soon a pile of feathers.”
In warmer climes, one can find Canada geese year-round, but in Leopold’s Wisconsin, they appeared only twice yearly to proclaim the arrival of two seasons–winter and spring.
“November geese are aware that every marsh and pond bristles from dawn till dark with hopeful guns, ” he writes. March geese, on the other hand, are a different story.
“They wind the oxbows of the river, cutting low over the now gunless points and islands, and gabbling to each sandbar as to a long lost friend.”
Later, Leopold writes, “Once the first geese are in, they honk a clamorous invitation to each migrating flock, and in a few days the marsh is full of them. On our farm we measure the amplitude of our spring by two yardsticks: the number of pines planted, and the number of geese that stop. Our record is 642 geese counted in on 11 April 1946.”
Leopold later discovers that “goose flocks are families, or aggregations of families, and lone geese in spring are probably just what our fond imaginings had first suggested. They are bereaved survivors of the winter’s shooting, searching in vain for their kin.”
Canada geese were very much a part of our life when we lived on Dews Pond near Calhoun, Georgia. They often nested in our yard and that of our neighbor, and we would look forward to the time when the goslings would emerge from the eggs. They became so tame that they would eat from our hands, and we would spend hours watching their antics. To this day, the honk of a goose brings back fond memories.