A LETTER TO GOOSE 109
by Debby Lynn
(written on July 8th, 2010 and delivered that evening at the memorial in Drake Park for the 109 Canada Geese that were gassed on June 29th)
Hello beautiful friend--
There are 108 beads on my prayer mala, one for each special being that was killed, and now a letter especially for you, the 109th life that was cruelly taken. On the Monday before that fateful Tuesday’s round-up and gassing, we stood together as usual beside the river, you and me. Many of you gathered at my feet, allowing me to stand so close, so connected, and then one of you came right over beside me. Was it you? Did you stand next to me gazing at this beautiful place where we live together? We were both thinking, ah, this is why we live in Bend--this beautiful river, the blue sky, the green grass, the pure mountain air. There are not many remaining places where one can be welcomed by wild beings to stand together, to breathe the same air while admiring our mutual home. How beautiful to share that joy and admiration of life with you on that Monday morning. That morning I sent out my words of hope over all of you geese, who so innocently trusted, so peacefully co-existed with us. I hoped you would all fly away safely. You did not.
If you had just flown in with your temporary visa, you would still be alive. But you fell in love with Bend, with Drake Park, with the Deschutes River…and so you stayed…and so did I. You’re a park bird, a resident, apparently an illegal alien in our town. You found ‘home’, a mate perhaps, built your nest and hatched your fuzzy golden goslings here. So, there was no need to fly south. In fact, by now, your migratory instincts are probably long gone. Why leave? You were surrounded by family, habitat, food, and the beauty of Central Oregon. No good-byes for you…until Tuesday, June 29th arrived. Somewhere, sometime, somehow, between committees, agencies, memos, emails and closed doors, people decided to capture and kill 109 of you, my friend, in a trash-can sized container of poisonous gas.
I have a clipping I have carried with me for years, written by a man recalling his childhood observance of geese on the farm where he was raised. He tells how, when he brought food to the ganders, trying to fatten them up, they always excitedly took all of it home to their true loves; how they always saved the best delicacies they found while foraging for their mates; how when it was time to slaughter one of you, the 150 geese on his farm always knew something dreadful was happening and would run and cower. But then when he nabbed one of you, often another, the mate of the one he had snatched, would step away bravely from the panicked flock and come right up to him, trembling, protesting pitifully for the life of the other. Though frightened out of its wits, it was still determined to stand with and comfort its lover. Oh, to love and be loved like that. And so, I cannot bear to picture you on that Tuesday, terrified, confused, the world as you have always known it, ended. Did you step forward with your mate or is she perhaps still here, grieving and looking for you up and down the river? Did you die quickly? Because I have heard otherwise about this sort of suffocating death.
I am so sorry for what we have done. Why do some get to decide that one life is more important, more valuable, more “convenient” than other lives? We had stood together the day before enjoying our lives in Bend, breathing the same air, our feet touching the same earth. My clean shoes now only remind me of man’s arrogance, our view of ourselves as the dominant pinnacles of creation. But deciding who gets to look at the river the next day and who doesn’t just makes us cruel and capricious. We have definite boundary issues. We plunder what is not ours to take--the very lives of our fellow creatures.
I prefer poop on my shoes to blood on my hands. The new Bend welcome sign could read, “Welcome to Bend. Where Your Goose Is Already Cooked.” Now I stand in the grass by the river on an early morning in Bend, and it is more lonely, and my shoes are painfully clean. Good-bye, my friend.