Lesson 1: Life-Death-Life

The hardest lesson of living so close to this pair of geese and building a relationship with them, has been in accepting that not everything that is birthed, must live. That our human sensitivities must bow to a greater force at work that determines what lives and what dies, and that life is in a continual renewing dance with death. Here are some things I am learning.

1. Birthing something takes a big commitment

We watch the Herculean effort required to bring new goose life into the world. For 30 days, he stands guard. She sits and sits and sits. In rain, wind, freezing cold. Both fight off marauding crows and curious dogs. The sheer power of driving instinct, the will to Life, holds the line. It is immensely admirable and a lesson in the commitment required to birth the new.

2. Not everything incubated will hatch.

It was the Winter of Covid-2020, and we watched clutch after clutch of eggs plundered, die from cold or be abandoned due to territory wars. So many aborted attempts to bring new life into the world. Heartbreaking. It felt like the many dead-ends, non-starters and disappointed dreams of that endless year. The geese had no choice but to keep trying, again and again. As must we.

And then, finally, a new nest, a new hope and 7 healthy babies hatched!

3. What is strong or lucky survives.

But one rainy Winter’s day, gosling after gosling starts to topple, left behind, too weak to survive the biting cold. Mom and Dad ignore the dying young-lings, focusing on where life is strongest. Life-Nature knows to put energy where there is strength. It seems harsh to the human eye.

We took two of these abandoned babies into foster care to get strong again. Sometimes when you fall down, you get lucky and someone gives you a helping hand, a second chance.

4. The wild-heart can ask a high price.

After a few days, we had a tough choice. Return still weak goose-lings to the parents in a cold and wet Cape Town winter, perhaps to live only a few hours nestled in mom’s feathers. Or a better chance of survival in a proper foster set up, monitored and kept warm, to be reared by kind humans.

Seeing the babies jump up and down and peep like mad whenever they heard mom outside, the decision became painfully clear. There was no way I could deny them the chance of being reunited, in spite of the risks. Both babies were returned during a short gap in the relentless rain. One made it through the cold night, the other did not.

The lucky surviving gosling is fat and strong now, living a proper wild goose-life, learning goose-ways from her parents and siblings.

5. Life will find a way.

I learned from my goose teachers that not everything that is born gets to live. Not every idea or enterprise comes to fruition. And why some things live and some things die is often beyond our understanding, a deeper force that is the cycle of life-death-life knows. I am slowly learning to trust this force and bow to its renewing power with less sentimentality and more awe.

I am also learning that, like the geese, we must keep on keeping on, because life WILL find a way.

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