I was once certain that geese were the scum of the earth. They shit everywhere on the farm when I was growing up. Because of them our pond was coated in thick green algae. They honked incessantly and when they were mating would charge my pony if he got too close. They had nothing going for them, I thought, and every pile of goose shit smeared on my shoes would make me scowl.

This conditioned hate for geese lasted until about ten days ago when, for the first time in my life, I was nearly attacked by one. Then, surprisingly, I had a change of heart.

The day was hot, hot and so humid walking out the front door of my friend’s apartment felt like being immersed in a steamy bowl of soup. Sickening hot. But, like any endorphin addict, I needed to go running and no steamy sauna weather was going to stop me. At the tail end of my usual four mile loop along the tow path and winding, dipping, leaf draped roads of Bucks County, I cruised the tow path, my face, arms, hair, legs, eyelids, entire body dripping with sweat. On the tow path ahead, a gaggle of geese were sprawled out with their young and the first ones to notice me began hissing immediately. Now, I’m not afraid of geese. I’ve been attacked by large birds before and know the pain, but I also knew that the tow path geese were used to having people run around and among them. Most often a hiss was adequate warning for me to keep moving.

Such was the case with this group of birds except that day was different. The oppressively damp head had nearly caused me to overheat and more that once I had to stop off at a roadside creek to douse myself in water to keep running. Exhasperated, I thought only of the cool shower waiting at the trail’s end, pumping my arms faster as the shower got closer and closer. So when one particular goose directly in the path hissed at me, I stared right back and thought ‘fuck you goose, I’m not moving.’ Wrong move.

Suddenly 50 pounds of goose and flapping wings was running my way; shocked and surprised, I yelled, leapt out of the way and slid halfway into the canal in the process. I ducked low as the goose flew overhead and landed with a splash in the canal beside me. Turning just to see him spin around and charge me again, I scrambled up the muddy, goose shit slimy bank and sprinted off like my life depended on it. Who knows, maybe it did. My heart pounded wildly as I cruised the last mile. ‘Those fucking geese,’ I thought, ‘I could shoot them all!’

Later, once I’d cooled down a bit and could laugh about the matter, my friend Mike suggested we look up goose symbolism in his Native American book of wildlife totems. I was about to make a major move to San Francisco to pursue writing and Mike thought that the goose might have something to do with my impending cross country shift. Wouldn’t that figure? So we had a look, and this is what we discovered:

Keynote: The call of the quest and travels to legendary places. Well, I like the sound of that immediately; I am about to travel to a legendary place on a life quest of sorts. We read on:

The goose is a totem reflecting a stimulation of the childhood thrill and belief in stories and legendary places. The stories we most loved in childhood often reflect the life quest we have come to take upon us in this lifetime. The goose can also be a totem to aid you in communication, especially through the use of stories. Whoa, now my attention is caught. As a writer, communication is paramount to me, most important of all is communicating stories through writing. We continue:

Its feather was once a standard writing tool. Those wishing to write–be it stories or anything–can facilitate the process by working with the goose totem to stimulate imagination and move through creative blocks. Hah! This is kind of eerie. We read on:

Eight species of geese live in North America. Eight is important because the number is so similar to the symbol for infinity, which reflects an ability to move forwards or backwards. It reflects movement, particularly for a spiritual quest. Interesting, I have moved back and forth across the country twice now. I’m about to embark on cross country move number three. It goes on:

The V-formation is very symbolic, reflecting by its shape an opening to new possibilities and ideas. Like an arrowhead, it points to new directions. This formation usually indicates we are about to affix ourselves to a new path. Whoa, now this is really eerie. I’m preparing to step into an entirely new situation, to walk an unexplored path. At this point, Mike and I are just laughing. This is a little too much, how can this vicious attack goose have so much to do with my future? There’s one paragraph left and this one is the real kicker:

Goslings are quiet, especially in the first part of life, and then the learn to break free. A goose as a totem can reflect that you are about to break free of old childhood restraints and begin to come into your own.

Point taken.

Geese–I will never consider you the scum of the earth again.

San Francisco–Here I come : )

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