Witnessing wonder…and loss

Since June, I’ve been walking before sunrise in Van Horn Park. I’ve seen beauty and witnessed wonder every day, but I’ve shied away from reporting these months, because it’s painful to record that there is less life and less diversity here than 10 years ago.

The wood ducks that bred here every year until 2012, are gone. This is the first year I saw no ducklings, not even mallards (although adults are still here). There are smaller numbers of Canada Geese than in prior years, and only two pairs had young. Among 23 goslings at peak count, only eight lived long enough to grow adult feathers.

The large goose family departed August 7, leaving three individuals, a pair with a late-season chick. The trio and I fell into a daily routine. Just before dawn, they’d waddle up the pine needle hill and watch for my arrival at the roadside. I knew it was my loaf of bread they were really happy to see, but I didn’t mind.

What I did mind, was seeing them away from the pond, vulnerable to loose dogs and unkind human beings. So, I’d greet them softly, but hurried them down to the water’s edge for the morning’s bakery treat. After I’d shaken the last crumbs from the bag (also shared with the ducks), the geese would take to the water and go off to do what geese do, and I’d go off for my walk.  And so it went each morning until Sunday, August 25.

That morning, I completed my circuit through the park and homeward bound, I glanced backward as I crossed Armory Street, and the geese were back up at the roadside again – looking out the gate in my direction.

Since I had no bread left and couldn’t bear to disappoint them, I continued home, feeling uneasy, and puzzled by the change in routine.

It took me Monday… Tuesday… Wednesday… with no geese to figure out – they’d been saying good-bye.


*Yes, there is a leash law, just one among many that is not enforced.


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