The geese flew over this morning, honking their way South across a crystal blue sky. On the ground, plants were laced with frost, shimmering in the early morning light. The air was filled with the familiar and intimate sound of goose talk, chatter high above, about who knows what.
It’s a sound which evokes the sense of the year turning and of the seasons changing, whether it’s the Autumn flow South towards warmth and food, or the Spring flood back North towards the breeding grounds and long hours of daylight. A reminder to notice whats happening around us in the world, and to look up.
It got me thinking about the phrase ‘a wild goose chase’, which usually means a frustratingly fruitless search, often round in circles, for something non-existent. I began wondering in what way geese were connected to this irritating and pointless sort if search, however all my leads seemed to take me nowhere interesting.
There was a thought that in fact it related to an old 18th century type of horse race called a ‘goose chase’ where all the riders chased after one rider, in a sort of v-formation, like the geese in the sky. Somehow that didn’t feel very satisfactory, and why on earth it would gain the affix ‘wild’ didn’t seem clear, and why this would be any more pointless or fruitless than any other sort of horse race also didn’t click into place.
I was beginning to feel a little frustrated with my wild geese, and then I looked up again as another squadron honked their way through the skylanes. I suppose trying to follow these wild migrating fellows would be fruitless from the ground. They move fast and in relatively straight lines, unlike the old curling country roads which wind through the countryside below, to which our feet are firmly stuck. Trying to give chase could well end up in becoming lost, while gazing upwards.
In fact the best way to capture the wild geese is to sit tight in a spot where year after year they pay a regular stop off. Rather than chasing after them , wait patiently for them to come by your way. This satisfied me on a few levels, and left me laughing at myself for having run round in circles looking for an explanation, when a little patient observation and thought might have led me straight here.
So that’s what I did today, after my mental wild goose chase, I headed over to a bird sanctuary on the Firth of Forth to see if our seasonal visitors were going to make a touch down. Would a little patience pay off…..and the lesson of being where I am rather than chasing around after some thought or other be beautifully given to me today, by the wild geese?
There was a final twist in the tale. Tonight the geese flew in so late that I could barely capture them on the camera. As I waited, and waited, the air got colder and colder and I could feel winters shoulder nudging in, and just as my breath started forming clouds and the sun was dissappearing the air was filled with thousands of wild honks, but this is all I could get on the camera….