The Geese

After more than two and a half years of living on a boat on the freshwater side of the Ballard Locks I’ve become better acquainted with the local bird species. Many I recognize and know the names of but there are also plenty i dont know the names of too. There are mallards and mergansers and herons and canadian geese. There are what I think are loons. There are these little black duck-like things that I think are pretty good divers and are much more skittish than the mallards and also have stunted beaks. There are the kingfishers with their trademark call. And the seagulls, of course, oh the seagulls. I can hear one screaming right now. Usually the birds aren’t TOO loud, but lately the geese have been having some 3am or 4am skirmishes, though of course I can’t be sure of the time because I don’t actually stir enough to check my clock, just to get mildly annoyed and go back to sleep.

Oh, and there are cormorants, too. How could I forget the cormorants. I love cormorants. And more in the summer there are bald eagles, usually when the salmon are running.

Weirdly, the species I’ve come to love the most over the two and half years are the canadian geese. At the beginning I wasn’t super fond of them because all they seem to do is poop and get pissed at you when you get near their young. But the more time I’ve spent around them the more I’ve developed a tender spot for them. How do I describe how this tender spot came about? Well, they’re so….dumb. And it’s not like i like dumb things. I usually kind of abhor dumb things. But in the case of the geese with the dumbness comes a certain kind of innocence, a certain earnestness. The mallards are a bit dumb too but I’ve seen them be vicious, the males trying to drown each other. And I guess now that I think about it the reason I like the geese is that even though they’re dumb and scared of humans they can also be quite curious, too. today for example I opened the curtains of my boat upon waking up and there was a pair of geese just staring at me through the window. I opened the hatch and said hello and they continued to stare, and then started making honking noises, and i did my best to make honking noises and we had a bit of a honking match. Then there was the night I got home late from being out on the town and I walked (as I sometimes do) to the end of the dock before getting on my boat to appreciate the stillness. And there chilling at the end of the dock, like little ghost fowl in the water, but a troupe of Canadian geese, looking like little grey shrouded sentinels. What they were up to I have no idea. They’re a weird bird, and that’s why i love them more and more.

I would probably love the more exotic birds too, the loons and the mergansers, but they never get close enough to hang out. The only ones that really get close are the mallards and the geese.

And so that’s what I was thinking about this morning, as I try to decide what to do today. I made a resolution yesterday to get off the boat, but I don’t know where that’ll take me. Maybe I’ll just go over to my parents’ house, or maybe I’ll drive to Portland and then Bend. Maybe I’ll go out to the Olympic Peninsula.

No need to rush. In the event I can’t decide maybe I’ll just look at the geese for awhile, for though they are dumb they’re also somehow wise.

Or actually maybe just dumb.