Watching the Geese

I try to take walks three or four times a week. I went through a stretch where it was never near that often, but at the same time I was hiking more often, so hopefully it evens out a bit. My walk leads me around Lake Arbor, the neighborhood body of water. During the winter, it’s home to skeins of geese and rafts of ducks.

I had to look that up. I always thought “gaggle” of geese, but that’s only what they’re called when they’re on water. In flight, they’re either a skein or a wedge. Ducks are rafts, but there are other group names as well – a team of ducks if they’re flying or a paddling of ducks when they’re on water.

Anyway, there’s generally quite a bit of activity around the lake – fields filled with grazing geese, small groups of ducks swimming in circles, birds landing and taking off, both on land and water. Last week I took the cameras with me and shot some time lapse footage. I was a bit underwhelmed. In retrospect, it wasn’t that interesting of a day to film geese. It was good practice, though, both the shooting and the editing. I posted the video, but I have no doubt I can make a better one if I give it more time.

Today would have been a better day. When I left the house, I wasn’t sure I wanted to take the usual three mile loop or cut it off shorter. The walk to the lake is mostly out of the wind, but once to the lake it was obviously quite breezy so I decided I wouldn’t bother making a lap of it. I stopped at the east end, in the trees, and watched the birds.

A gaggle was getting out of the water to graze. The ones already aground were fanning out, beaks pecking the brown grass. Geese were lined up in the water single file, paddling somewhat upwind towards the shore. One after another would hop onto the bricks lining the water’s edge and immediately put beak to lawn. In the water, the wind was pulling the line like taffy, and now the geese were flapping wings to get ashore. Before long they were flying as far as twenty feet. Now the geese still afloat were reconsidering. Two or three turned around and went to the back of the line when their turns came. Eventually the group split, three quarters or so on land, the rest moving out to deeper water. Would have made for a good time lapse sequence.

Usually on these walks I see people walking their dogs, and the usual mix of joggers and retired folks out for a stroll. Today I encountered a guy dragging his roller board suitcase behind him, with a small backpack on lying on the handle. He was barefoot with his pair of shoes dangling from around his neck. Maybe in his early twenties, baseball cap, sunglasses, a couple days of beard. I’m wearing sunglasses and have the brim of my Broncos cap pulled fairly low. I’m wearing big headphones, not the little buds. I’m listening to a BBC business podcast.

I’m wondering where he’s headed. He’s heading south east, so he’s not going to the Park-N-Ride (which is north east). It strikes me as, if not odd, at least unusual. When I pass people I generally give them a nod of hello. As I pass, he hollers out a question – “How many yards did Manning get?”

Okay, I’ll have a short chat about football. I pause the iPod and take off the cans. I give a quick recap of the game and answer his questions. Then he takes his glasses off and introduces himself. Not just first name, but first and last. Asks my name. I tell him “Dave.” “Dave what?” “Just Dave.” He says okay but sort of rolls his eyes, miffed perhaps that I didn’t give him my full name. He then launches into a bit of history. He grew up right over there (waves his arm indicating the general direction). His parents have lived there forever, he has lots of old friends here.

I wonder where this is going. Does he expect me to recognize these names? Next he tells things aren’t going well for him. He’s not close to his family, doesn’t have many friends. He recently got divorced. He just found out he has mouth cancer. Tears well up in his eyes. He hasn’t told these things to his family. “I’m probably not going to live much more than a year.” This is a bit awkward.

He pulls himself together, wishes me a good day and we resume our opposite paths.