Day 30: Something that makes you sad
I have a soft heart. Especially when it comes to animals. Obviously, I’m over the moon for our three furkids, but I have a strong emotional reaction to animals in general. My heart breaks when I see an animal—any animal—hurting. Whether it’s a deer on the side of the highway or my brother’s sweet pup, there will be tears. This compassion and empathy extends even to animals that most people seem to despise and complain about.
Case in point: Canadian geese
I love Canadian geese. I love their honking conversations and their slow waddling gait. I love how they stand on one foot and how they twist their necks when they sleep. There is a pair that hangs out by work, and the roof clatters with their comings and goings. Even if it’s the tenth time they’ve landed that day, the sound of a goose landing on a tin roof makes me smile. It’s such a lot of honking and clattering, like out-of-control cars trying to squeal to a stop. It makes my day.
About a month ago, I spotted two Canadian geese in the parking lot of a local mall. Whenever I see geese wandering around parking lots, I feel a strong motherly urge to shoo them to more protected grassy areas. People are careless and impatient, and geese move slowly. One goose was laying on a small island with some grass and a tree. She appeared to be lifeless, and there were feathers strewn about around her. I remember crying because I assumed someone had hit her and left her there.
I thought of her often for the next few weeks, but I couldn’t bring myself to go back and check on her, for fear she would still be lying there, cold and still.
I was devastated. I immediately assumed the worst—that a predator had disturbed the nest, or that some complete jerkface had smashed the eggs. I researched geese once, and they are very emotional animals. They mate for life, and they have strong emotional reactions to the loss of their mate or the loss of the nest. They grieve for years. Some never mate again, and simply live lives of isolation, away from the social group. Don’t be fooled into thinking they are dumb animals. I’m here to tell you that geese have feelings.
I drove to the other end of the parking lot, pulled my car over, and wept in the rain. I wept for mama goose, who was still sitting on the nest, protecting her babies though they were gone. I wept for papa goose, who stood right by her, a loud and ready guard. I cried for what they had lost and for their vulnerability.
When I told my husband this story, he scoffed and dismissed the birds as stupid, saying it was their own fault for building a nest in the middle of a parking lot. But it makes a lot of sense—the concrete island affords unobstructed views in all directions, so predators cannot sneak up on them. The nearby security light also deters critters, as does the frequent movement of cars and people through the area. Grass and water are nearby. It’s not so stupid if you look a little bit closer.
As I sat and sniffled, I remembered the photo topic for today, and I resolved to go back. I resolved to photograph the pair and write about them. I cried a little more, because I didn’t want to go back and stare at such overwhelming loss. I didn’t want to witness or deal with that sad part of life’s story.
But I did.
And then this.
And I realized my mistake. The eggs hadn’t been ransacked or stolen. They had been discarded as the babies were born. In an instant, broken shells went from a devastating reminder of what could have been to a symbol of joy and hope. Same shells. Different meaning.
I’m so grateful that I mustered up the courage to go back. If I hadn’t, I would have assumed the worst instead of seeing the best. I would have missed this fluffy, yellow, amazing reminder that assumptions aren’t always true, and sometimes things deserve a second look.