For six years, amid thousands of Canadian geese, my dogs and I have watched spring come to Denver’s Washington Park. My dog, Kisha, was my companion for the first three springs, but now Zoli has taken her place. Lately I have been looking forward to the goslings, watching them grow day by day from fluffy yellow balls to young gray geese, and thinking about the how the geese parents hiss at me so that I will keep my distance. Every year I have assured them that my dogs and I are no threat. Certainly, Zoli is not. While other dogs drag their owners with a shoulder-dislocating vengeance to scatter the flocks, Zoli walks through the gauntlet of geese quietly hoping that perhaps at least one will want to share sniffs. He doesn’t discriminate. This morning he was nose-to-nose with the black cat that lives on the next block. He would do the same with the geese if they would oblige
Yesterday, though, as we were walking along the north side of Smith Lake two geese unintentionally demanded my attention, turned me into being a voyeur. Zoli missed it completely focused in his hound dog way on the smells at his feet. But I was transfixed. The pair began dipping their heads in a rhythmic call and response, jutting their heads into and out of the water in a perfectly synchronized pattern, bobbing up only to catch a glimpse of the other’s head going under. Totally focused on each other, I was excused from the guilt of my bad manners. Slowly, they circled each other, heads splashing, coming closer together. Then, one on top of the other, submerging, resurfacing, voices of animalism, and it was over. The process that creates the so many thousands of geese completed.
People complain about the geese in the park. But the park is their home, and they are creatures of contrasts. They are messy. Dog owners bemoan trying to teach their dogs that the messes are not snacks. And the geese can be mean and loud, squawking and hissing, fighting for territory. Interestingly though, they are almost always monogamous. More, they are creatures of beauty, not just in their mating dance, but in their everyday ways. When I do pay attention they startle me out of my selfie life, away from my homocentric conceit. Taking off from the lake, they gracefully carry their large bodies into the air in a stunning display of powers we don’t have. When they land with the art of a well-skipped rock, again they defy their seemingly awkward mass. Their midnight black beads and beaks, snow white neck kerchiefs, subtle gray feathers and light underbellies can seem ordinary when we see hundreds every day. But when we look skyward and see the perfect formations, gliding on the wind, the magic of wild nature presents itself, even in the skies over a too-humanized city like Denver.