When I awakened this morning and meandered off to the kitchen to make coffee, I could hear Canada geese through the kitchen window, great flowing waves of local birds filling the early darkness with their happy honking. How can one not be uplifted in hearing such wild music? Their passage overhead and their songs are a splendid way to begin the day and one of my personal markers for the presence of autumn here in the north, for the inexorable shortening of our days and the coming of the long white season.
There are communities of the great birds in every field, on every lake, river and shoreline, and however many we encounter in our pottering, we never tire of watching them. Wherever we am and whatever we are doing, we stop when the geese pass overhead on their way to the cornfields at dawn and back to the river at dusk. They sing their contentment as they travel to and fro, and one would never know from their voices what an arduous journey lies ahead for them.
This past weekend, I watched geese alighting on the beaver pond and thought about how they have always sustained me. The great Canadas have been with me all the way: through thick and thin, up and down, hard and soft, in moments of perfect contentment and times when distress was too deep for expression. Geese are the finest of companions, and when winter arrives and they are in a far and southern place, I have only to close my eyes and they are with me again. There is comfort in thinking that long after I have shuffled off the planet (in this form anyway), they will be here and engaged in the perfect endless round of their days.
Late last evening, the geese were briefly silhouetted against the almost full October moon, and they made a perfect autumn tableau, but my tripod was on loan, and the perfection of the frosty evening went by without being captured on my memory card. Perhaps the moment was not meant to be frozen, but to be held within and revisited on long winter nights when the icy north wind prowls around the little blue house in the village.
Much of the music of my life has been composed and orchestrated by the geese, and I would not have it any other way - I sometimes think about composing something akin to the late David Fanshawe's exquisite African Sanctus. My own composition would enfold, not the desert bells of the eastern Sudan, the Masai milking songs of Kenya or the rain chants of Uganda, but the sound of the north wind and the migration songs of the great geese in autumn. Perhaps we could call it "An Algonquin Mass". This one is for the birds, or rather the geese.