A melancholy sky dangles above the world with just enough cloud to ruin good lighting but not enough to stop the shadow army. I march on nonetheless, confident at least one thing seen and photographed will be worth the trip.
Even if not, however, I know of the magic nature wields and how it revitalizes even the wariest of souls. That I need more than a good picture.
Not long after I reach Sunset Bay and attempt to capture a few shots of the blue-winged teals far across the confluence, I hear a goose overhead and look up to witness less conventional fare soaring above the treetops.
A lone Canada goose (Branta canadensis) circles the bay and disappears behind the impenetrable shield of woodlands springing to life.
I feel the opportunity has gone, has slipped by with only that one view.
Yet I hear the goose calling still, and its voice rings closer and closer until I see it fly out back over the lake, falling slowly, braking, moving into position to land.
It settles into the water with ease and begins swimming into the bay yet away from my location. I rush to the pier where I hope to have a better—and closer!—view.
The sound of wood creaking and cracking beneath each step welcomes me to my favorite spot on the jetty. It reaches into the heart of Sunset Bay, past the sandbar where pelicans preen and coots cavort and ducks dance, where gulls and geese and cormorants spend part of their time at the lake, where so much life happens that it can overwhelm the senses of the unprepared.
Yet the goose angles further away from the pier even as I get into position. It swims toward shore but away from the commotion at the confluence.
Amongst sleeping scaups the goose swims slowly. Somehow I feel it watch me as I dash along the shore vying for a better position, a closer seat from which I might enjoy the view.
Crouched amongst the reeds and alligatorweed, my feet sinking in mud, I watch as the goose paints a slow circle through the south end of the bay.
All the while it watches me, or perhaps only watches the shore where so many people have come to enjoy the beautiful morning made luscious and alive by recent rains.
Its turn complete and its surveillance of the shore done, I watch as the goose swings south again and heads toward Winfrey Point. It picks up speed now, swimming with a bit more purpose.
Or is it me who is being followed?
I walk south past the point and past the arboretum making my way to Garland Road where the lake ends. Each time I turn around, the goose is there, there near shore following the water’s edge, always nearby, always right over my shoulder.
I come to realize we are sharing this time together, neither of us owning it any more than we own the air in our lungs or the light in our eyes; I come to realize neither of us is following the other, but instead we are both on a journey of rejuvenation that happens to carry us on the same path for a wee bit, and so we share the moment, share the experience.
And I’m the better for it.
Canada geese are not unheard of around these parts, although they are not warm-weather residents. Rather, they migrate through here each year and sometimes, rarely, a few remain through winter.
Being there at the moment this lone bird stopped to rest was a bit of fortune I had not expected, but one I welcomed with open arms.