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Zen and the Art of Geese

People often ask what made me decide to keep geese as pets.  I like to reply that I was looking for a pet that made more racket than a chicken and pooped three times as much.  

They have more than lived up to this expectation.  

But seriously, I enjoy birds and don’t need much of an excuse to get more pets.  They say chickens are the “gateway poultry,” and chicken keeping is easy enough so I figured, what the heck?  I believe that life presents us with many teachers and that most everything can be turned into a learning opportunity.  It has been an interesting experience this past year with The Geese, and I have certainly learned a lot – not just about tending a small backyard flock, but about life in general. 

Make noise – joyful or otherwise!

Geese get a bad rap for being loud and being hissy, and mine are no exception.  While I love them dearly, and feel as though we share a special bond since they imprinted on me as day old goslings, I wouldn’t put it past them to bite me if I was too close to their nest.  And believe me; getting bit by a goose is like getting attacked by pinking shears.  However, geese are remarkably expressive.  They can out-bark any dog to alert the family to intruders, (also known as guests ringing the doorbell, people walking past on the sidewalk, the train horn….)  And geese are also quite talented at letting people know that something is wrong.  If the geese accidentally knock over their water bucket (or on purpose) they let me know.  When they want a treat, they let me know.  (Man oh man do they let me know!) If something isn’t quite right, they let me know.

Loud and clear. 

But that’s the thing: they let me know – they give feedback. How often do we go through our days and don’t say anything?  We have the worst day ever and our significant other asks what’s wrong and we say, “Nothing.” Or when we see an injustice and don’t speak up because we don’t want to “get involved.”   We all have missed opportunities and times when we regret not saying what was on our mind.

 Geese never miss an opportunity to speak up. Ever.  

We need to be comfortable to ask for what we need.  We also need to be comfortable when the answer isn’t what we want. 

My geese have taught me to say what I mean and mean what I say.

Attack the day!

When I walk down the path to their little goose hutch each morning, they are already pacing back and forth and making their joyful noise because they heard me open the back door.  They are totally ready for their day, and when I fling open their door, they burst out of the hutch like racehorses at the gate.  They don’t lie around in bed and hit the snooze button three more times – they are there, awake, and totally present.  Geese don’t “phone it in.”  They take off running, heads down, wings flapping, toward the yard to check on their pool –  I assume to see if anything changed since the last time they were there (yesterday).  Their beady little eyes are lit with the fire of curiosity as they charge to see what the day has in store for them. 

here we come!

What would it be like if we approached our days with a sense of excitement and adventure?  With energy, vitality, and a healthy dose of curiosity? Do we approach each day as a series of burdens and ordeals to muddle through, or are we truly grateful for the gift of another day?

My geese have taught me that every day is a gift and to approach each day with an open heart and open mind.

Take a (Goose) Bath!

My geese remind me how to find joy in simple things.  It doesn’t take too much to keep a goose happy: some fresh greens, a nice space to wander around, a cat to terrorize, a patch of sunshine, and best of all: fresh water! It is a happy day indeed when I refill the goose pool.  After I flip it and dump the dirty water, they watch and stare eagerly, their eyes laser- focused on the water spouting from the hose in my hand.  They wait until the pool is completely full and I have turned off the water before climbing in.  They prefer to each have their own pool, but in winter, this gets a little challenging so they have to share.   They manage.  And once they are in that water, they are a flapping, somersaulting, back flipping shimmer of water splashing everywhere.  A cacophony of water!  They stretch and preen and any eyewitness can look at them and come to the realization that those birds are truly having a great day.

Geese are excellent at self-care.  They know when they need a break and when to attend to the business of making sure all is right in their world.  They are totally present in the moment and no worries of the future or musings of the past haunt their thoughts; they are simply enjoying the now.  In their bath, they aren’t thinking about laundry that needs folding or bills that need paying.  They are fully immersed in their pool and the moment.

My geese remind me to stay in the moment and to take care of myself.

Eat your greens!

Even since they were babies, my geese have loved Romaine lettuce.  When they were still living in a storage tub in my living room, they would descend upon a fresh head in a manner closely akin to a coalition of cheetahs that just brought down a gazelle. If lettuce could scream, it would. Geese have a very healthy diet – they eat fresh greens, their vitamin fortified pellets, fruits, and a wide assortment of vegetables.  Unlike chickens, who will eat Styrofoam or even each other if given the chance, geese are vegetarians.   Geese eat for wellness and they eat a lot of good, healthy food. Most people fall far short of eating the recommended amount of leafy greens each day.

don’t trust this face!

What would it be like to incorporate more fresh fruit and veggies into our diets?  Especially the green leafy kind?  Imagine how good would we feel with a nutritious, plant-based diet?

Those geese remind me to eat my greens.

Roll with the punches!

Geese are clumsy.  Like really clumsy.  I’ve seen the occasional animal blooper with a cat falling off a shelf and other internet delights, but that’s amateur stuff.  These geese are total pros when it comes to being clumsy.  I’m left wondering if this is why this particular breed of goose is becoming endangered.   If there is something on the patio, the geese will trip on it.  If there is a patch of ice, the geese will slip on it.  When attempting the deck stairs, the geese will tumble down in a series of forward rolls with floppy feet a-flailing, and flappy wings a-thrashing.  It ain’t pretty.  In fact, it’s so cringe-worthy that I literally hold my breath until they skid to a landing, certain that something broke this time.  And they don’t even have the decency to look embarrassed!  If I fell down the stairs like that, I’d be in the emergency room.  But these geese are made of tougher stuff than I am! 

What can we possibly learn from this? A reminder to keep going and to never give up.  Sometimes there are delays and obstacles, but we just have to get up and muscle through them. Or perhaps take it up another day.   Every journey has its challenges Maybe we do something stupid or embarrassing.  Move on.  Let it go, get through it, and just see what happens.  Sometimes, that’s the best anyone can do.

so very fluffy…

What is the lesson here? To go with the flow and to not take myself too seriously.

So, later today, when I am schlepping buckets of water through the frozen mud, and leaving offerings of yet another bushel of lettuce for Ivan and Natasha, my heart will sing with gratitude for all these special birds have taught me and all the joy they have given me as they teach me the lessons of life.

What have you learned from watching your pets or animals in nature? What is your “spirit animal?”

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