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October 25, 2021

Glad to see return of Canada geese and welcome fall to Gold Hill

By Marjorie Ritchie
For the Salisbury Post

Autumn is about to make her appearance in Gold Hill. The muscadines are ripening, the soybean fields are turning gold, and the Canada geese are flying back home. I appreciate the beauty of the muscadine vines and the golden soybean fields, but I have a special place in my heart for the Canada goose. No one has missed these wonderfully obnoxious waterfowl more than my bird dog, Luke, and me. In late spring, they departed Gold Hill for destinations unknown, and now they are returning to the farm field and pond behind my home.

What attracts me to these large, cacophonous creatures? The answer is that they simply provide comic relief in the early and late hours of my daily life. In a world marked by the chaos and cruelty of a pandemic and political pandemonium, I simply need to laugh and celebrate the good and joyous side of life. Therefore, during the early hours of sunrise and the twilight hours of evening, I step outside to listen to the raucous honking of the Canada geese as they depart and return to the farm pond.

Surely there is a translation of the Bible that says, “On the fifth day, God created the Canada goose. And he saw that it was good and He laughed out loud.” Laughing is just what I do when I see Luke, our Don Quixote bird dog, chase the shadows of the geese as they fly over in the predictable V-formation. If I listen carefully enough, I think I hear the geese cackling because they know they have sent my bird dog into a tizzy or conniption fit. In the evening when the geese have landed on the pond for their bedtime, I hear a cacophony of honking, squawking and hooting for several hours before they settle down to sleep. I believe there must be a great number of female birds in this flock because they sound like the old ladies gabbing at my mother’s bridge games.

Apart from the comic relief they provide, Canada geese ultimately demonstrate the creator’s display of intelligent design. Once sleep has come for the goose, half of his brain sleeps while the other half remains awake to listen for signs of any predators approaching the pond. This type of sleep is known as “unihemispheric slow-wave sleep” or USWS. Many avian species, as well as aquatic ones, display this phenomenon. While a flock of geese is flying in the V formation, they can utilize USWS to follow the lead bird and catch some “Z’s.” Unfortunately, too many humans have become like geese navigating the highways with half of their brain awake. No wonder there is so much “honking from behind.”

Finally, I am glad that autumn is returning to Gold Hill. I am glad that the Canada geese are back, and Luke will enjoy his elder years chasing their shadows. I am thankful for the gift of nature and the moments of comedy she provides. I take comfort in the clues of intelligent design in these wonderfully obnoxious birds. Happily, I welcome them back home to Gold Hill where the muscadines and fields are ripe with beauty.

Marjorie Ritchie lives in Gold Hill.

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