When Life Is In the Palm of Your Hand


I have seen several families of Canada Geese down by the river recently.  Pairs of proud parents stand guard over small tufts of yellow-grey, ready to fend off any intruder that dares to get too close.  I’ve been watching them from a respectful distance, longing for a better zoom lens on my camera.

It’s obvious that some of the goslings have hatched earlier than others.  In some families, the hatchlings are about the size of a tennis ball.  They teeter around behind their parents, following closely, with one or two occasionally straying off a bit.  Wandering is dangerous business however, with plenty of predators lurking nearby, ready to snap up one of those tasty morsels.

In fact, it’s apparent that many of the goslings have been lost this way, relegated to becoming part of the food chain before their young lives have even begun.  Some of the geese with older chicks (now the size of a Nerf football) have clearly lost some of their brood – with only two or three downy babes following behind, while the youngest hatchlings number between eight and ten.  This always makes me sad, but nature shows no mercy, and everyone needs to eat.

Seeing the goslings reminds me of a time when I happened upon a stray chick while I was hiking.  I was living in the Catskills at the time, and hiking along the Esopus Creek, when I spotted a fuzzy yellow chick struggling in the current.  With no sign of the parents in sight, I snatched the gosling from the water and held it gently in the palm of my hand.  It nipped at the air with terrified cheeps, calling for the safety of its mother’s warmth.  With the life of this fragile being now in my hands, I wondered what I should do.  I imagined taking it home and raising it, but it was completely impractical.  I didn’t have a place to raise a goose, not to mention the know-how.  (Nowadays, I suppose I would look it up online, but this was before the omnipresence of the almighty Google.)

My heart was breaking, and yet I knew the fate of this bird.  It was going to die.  It was going to earn its place in the web of life by nourishing another.

I have always been taught that nature knows best; we should refrain from interfering with her cruel and wonderful ways.  I pondered this as I held this soft living being in my hands, marveling at the delicateness of such a tiny creature, and grappling with the complexities of the world that we are all a part of.  I tried to imbue as much comfort as I could in the gosling, saying a prayer for it and thanking it for its place in the circle of life, until at last, I set it down and said goodbye.

I think about that chick from time to time, and wonder if I would do things differently if I had to do it all over again.  Perhaps I would bring it to a wildlife rehab center.  Or perhaps I would try to raise it myself now that I have the means to do so.  Do I regret my choice of letting a life slip away?  No.  In some way, I feel that gosling has become a part of me.  Its spirit mingles with mine, reminding me of the sacredness of all living beings.



The Great Mother

Today is mother’s day, and I have found myself thinking a lot about our great mother, the earth, who gives life to us all.  Spring is the season in which I am most acutely aware of the gifts that she gives to us.  Delicate blossoms have appeared in shades of pink and white – their soft, gentle petals decorate branches and boughs, before they fall (all too quickly) to the ground.  The cheerful daffodils and forsythia have enjoyed a banner year, due to the cooler temperatures this spring, and the tulips are now bursting with brightness.

The miracle of life is abundant this time of year, and it seems that I can actually SEE things growing.   This past week has been a bit rainy and the plants have been drinking greedily.  Tiny, tender leaves are beginning to unfurl from the tips of the trees like miniature umbrellas.  Across the landscape, trees are speckled with yellowy-green, which in time will become the lush, deep green of summer.

Yesterday morning, I was down by the Connecticut River.  It was misty and the air was alive with the hum of insects.  I could hear several different birdsongs – their melodies dancing through my ears as I tried to pick out each one.  I’m pretty terrible at identifying birdcalls, but I just focused on trying to hear and appreciate the sweetness of each unique song.

Droplets of water dangled from the tips of the trees, making them look as though they had been draped with diamonds.  I examined one hanging from a hemlock branch, and I could see all the life around me reflected in it like a tiny crystal ball. Small clusters of baby pinecones dotted the hemlock boughs.  These pinecones are very small when fully developed – maybe the size of my fingernail, but these tiny cones were just about 3 millimeters long, and still pale green in color.  It’s amazing to think that these giant beauties grow from a seed that starts of so small.  If that’s not a miracle, I don’t know what is.

I am so grateful for the amazing abundance of life that our earth-mother provides and sustains.  And of course, I’m grateful for my own, actual mother, who is incredibly creative, fun, and sensitive.  She has always been there to nurture, encourage, and support me.  Furthermore, I’m infinitely grateful to her for exposing me to the outdoors and encouraging my love of nature from an early age.  She’s not exactly an outdoorswoman, but she showed me enough of the natural world to light a spark that I know will last a lifetime.