I left the camera home on purpose yesterday, because folks, in truth sometimes it’s too distracting. The sun was climbing over the trees, the forecast warm. Slamming the door on our chilly house, I left an hour early for a networking meeting, holding my blue notebook and charging myself to use words to record what I encountered while sitting in the car at the public beach one town over, a short distance from where the meeting was scheduled.
I had hardly registered the glitter of the sun on the water, the slow swoop of the windmill arms as they scooped and lifted on the hill across from the harbor, when four adult geese and seven puff-ball babies scampered across the lot in front of me. Automatically, I grabbed for the camera--and muttered a certain expletive.
The blonde chicks peeped and tumbled over themselves in a pulsating wedge of down as they skittered over the sand toward the water; behind them adult birds snaked thin necks and pecked razor beaks, beating their arched wings and screeching as they herded their brood to safety. Nature, I thought. Gorgeous. Remind me again why I left the camera tucked inside its nylon case?
I used to work in the same town in which yesterday's networking meeting was scheduled. On an occasional summer Friday I escaped the office at lunch to unroll a picnic blanket on a grassy stretch next to the same beach where I sat watching the geese. There I’d nibble at my brown-bag lunch, watching as ruffle-suited toddlers built sandcastles and white-nosed lifeguards lounged in the heat. But before all that, it was necessary to walk pigeon-toed and spread the blanket carefully to avoid goose droppings.
That memory came to me yesterday when I realized that the cause of the birds’ agitation trailed behind them in a tail-wagging frenzy. A black border collie and his owner, actually a neighbor of mine, had been contracted by the town to keep the geese out of the park. Yapping and panting, Zinger stood guard at the water’s edge across from where the honking geese paddled and milled a safe distance away. Then, as though resigned to his presence, the flock clumped together and, via some aviary sonar, turned as one and paddled toward the hump of a green island that rests in the middle of the harbor.
Watching the goose eliminator as he marched back and forth along the shore, then ran up to the lot in response to his owner’s sharp whistle, I forgot about the down feathers of the babies, the way their hindquarters wobbled back and forth in their race to the sea.
Instead I remembered the poop, on this park, on each soccer field on which our daughter ever played on, on the pathway to my old office, on just about any golf course or fresh-water beach or open space in our state, and I daresay, many others.
Oh. Right. Not so cute after all.