On Saturday morning we were rushing about doing Saturday things…taking out the garbage, folding laundry, cleaning out drawers. One trip to the garage found my husband and I both outside at the same time. That’s when we heard it….the voices of snow geese returning from being real snowbirds, returning from their winter, most likely, in the Gulf Coast. We could hear them before we could see them. Our eyes scoured the blue morning sky until our ears finally led us to the undulating ribbon of white that was moving right over our house headed along the river’s path that will lead them home to northern Minnesota or Canada. We stood and watched silently naming the moment for what was:blessing.
Five months ago on Thanksgiving Day guests were arriving for a late afternoon feast. As we unloaded the bounty of autumn from cars and walked toward the house someone had said, "Listen!" We stopped, looked toward the sky and there were the snow geese saying goodbye, perhaps congratulating themselves that they had the power, the good sense, to go to warmer climes. The guests who had already made their way into the house came outside and so there we all stood, marking this moment of true Thanksgiving and connection with the miraculous rhythm of Creation, knowing we were saying goodbye to the snow geese and the fullness of the year.
And so now I can say I have had the amazing privilege of saying goodbye and hello to these graceful, soaring creatures who use the sky over our house as their interstate, taking with them the bliss of autumn and returning carrying the anticipation of spring. I am so thankful to have been in the right place at the right time to see their migration. It seems a gift beyond anything I deserve.
As I look out my window right now, there is no sign of spring. Snow falls wildly, re-covering what green grass had become visible. I have to admit its beauty, though I do so begrudgingly. By Thursday it will be gone, such is the fate of these early spring snows. While spring may not be visible to the human eye, the snow geese carry the truth within their sleek, feathered bodies. They fly because they can, and because they know.
The poet Mary Oliver puts it this way: "Oh, to love what is lovely, and will not last! What a task to ask of anything, or anyone, yet it is ours, and not by the century or the year, but by the hours. One fall day I heard above me, and above the sting of the wind, a sound I did not know, and my look shot upward; it was a flock of snow geese, winging it faster than the ones we usually see, and being the color of snow, catching the sun so they were, in part at least, golden. I held my breath as we do sometimes to stop time when something wonderful has touched us as with a match which is lit, and bright, but does not hurt in the common way, but delightfully, as if delight were the most serious thing you ever felt.The geese flew on. I have never seen them again. Maybe I will, someday, somewhere. Maybe I won’t. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that, when I saw them, I saw them as through the veil, secretly, joyfully, clearly."