There’s something about geese that has always evoked my heart. Part of my affection comes from the fact that they fly in community, squawking at one another like old married couples. They land in the water with a gangly innocence that suggests that they still haven’t got this flying thing down. And when they walk around on land, they remind me of little old ladies, perhaps former professors, who were once beautiful and brilliant, and are now a bit dotty and ditzy, but still possess some of the old magic nonetheless.
Still, they float around on the lake behind my house with a dignity that is majestic. They are dark swans, proud, tough, and gentle.
And, wow, what courage. We see them in the fall and winter, when it’s getting colder by the day. They fly in weather that I run away from, at altitudes whose temperatures must be horribly frigid. They fly against the wind, or with it – doesn’t matter. What matters is that they know where they are going. And they are determined to get there, come what may.
Just this last season, I saw a couple of hunters dressed in olive camouflage, hiding in a couple of blinds, waiting for the geese to pass by. They had littered a field with plastic geese in order to draw the real birds close enough to kill. All I could do was pray to the angels who travel with these beautiful birds to keep them away from that dangerous patch of ground.
I had read years ago that they mate for life, and only with one partner. That touched me deeply, because it revealed the presence of a truly lofty and spiritual love. These birds feel deeply, or so it seems. And they have great hearts.
All of this might have been enough to keep my admiration strong for the rest of my life. But then the information posted below appeared in a publication produced by a New York hospital where I gave a lecture. One of my students got hold of the pamphlet and read it to our Level 2 Healer’s Program. As he read the piece aloud, his voice kept cracking. Most of the rest of us in the room were in tears, too.
Here is a slightly edited version of the little piece. Learning from Geese.
As each goose flaps its wings, it creates an “uplift” for the birds that follow.
By flying in a “V” formation, the whole flock adds 71 percent greater flying range than
if each bird flew alone.
There’s a lesson to be learned in this. People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where they are going quicker and easier because they are kept aloft by one another’s thrust.
When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance
of flying alone. It quickly moves back into formation to take advantage of the
lifting power of the bird immediately in front of it.
The lesson to each of us is this: If we have as much sense as a goose we stay in formation with those headed where we want to go. We are willing to accept their help and give our help to others.
When the lead goose tires, it rotates back into the formation and another goose
flies to the point position.
The lesson? It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership. As with geese, people are interdependent on each other’s skills, capabilities and unique
arrangements of gifts, talents or resources.
The geese flying in formation honk to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.
What we can learn from this behavior: We need to make sure our honking is encouraging. In groups where there is encouragement, the production is much greater. The power of encouragement (to stand by one’s heart or core values and encourage the heart and core of others) is the quality of honking we seek.
When a goose gets sick, wounded or shot down, two geese drop out of formation and follow it down to help and protect it. They stay with it until it dies or is able to fly again. Then, they launch out with another formation or catch up with the flock.
The lesson: If we have as much sense as geese, we will stand by each other in difficult times as well as when we are strong.
Like so much of the rest, geese have much to teach us. I wonder if we are up to the lessons they have already learned.