It was the noise of them that woke me early… the sheer exuberant, cackling, honking, wing flapping thrill of them. The geese from the reservoir are circling the house, hundreds of them. They are irresistible, uplifting and so on this peerless sparkling dawn I leave the house running, running down to the shore line to watch.
It is 6 o’clock the sun is just rising and the water is alive with birds. Squadrons of formation flying geese rise up and fly over my head. Banking to the right they are lit by the sun. Up, up up they go, up to the stubble fields and back down to the water. Their wing beats are heavy on my eardrums. They are so low and so close. How much I resent the leaden pull of gravity and how much I wish I was up there with them.
Flocks of screaming terns circle dive and glide, a lone black cormorant skims low and silent, its mirror image flying close and perfect in still glassy water. There are flotillas of noisy ducks, solitary grebes who suddenly dive leaving nothing but small rippling circles and, in amongst all the noisy clamour, glide the beautiful swans, always regal and always aloof.
As I walk back the geese return again to the water, the air is thick with their grey plump bodies but in amongst them is one shining white shape. One fat white goose .. I wonder if, like me, it saw these wild geese from its farmyard home and yearned to be up there too, winging its way to wild and reckless freedom. Did it just occur to this bird that if it ran and ran, its comfortable lumbering body might be transformed into a thing of weightless soaring beauty, and it could be whisked up and away with that whirling gypsy crowd.
These beautiful magical early dawns are fleeting things, within the blink of an eye things change. Turning for home I see the wind is rising, my shadow is shortening and the day becomes ordinary again.
But I kept thinking about the white goose and not ever wanting this lovely day to end or be forgotten I returned to the reservoir, but the geese were gone, replaced now by small fishing boats. Disconsolate and unsettled I wandered the tracks and cycled miles on side roads and bridle paths, startling tiny muntjac deer, looking for bee activity and picking more plums before returning to the shore line. Still no geese. I consoled myself by sketching snoozing ducks and little terns squabbling on Tern Rock and finding a patch of sun kissed blackberries.
Later at 5.30 I went out again, The wind was fresher still, the fishing boats replaced now by gay little white sailed yachts which were dashing about by the far shore.
At 6.00 flocks of terns came drifting in from the fields, and five Canada geese performed aerial acrobatics low over the choppy white topped water. I sat on the grass wondering if the geese would return. At 6.30 I came home. At 7.15 I walked out to the yard and looked up to the stubble field and there, streaming in over the horizon, as dusk was falling, complete with their gleaming white companion came the geese. Happily I returned to the house. But then at 8.00 I hear them again, honking, whirring and on the wing. We open the door to see them flying over the house. I run out again, I run through the tall crop and down to the water.A slender waxing sickle moon hangs in the sky and the geese are just dark shapes on the shining water. My day is complete.
Today I should have been in the car driving, I should have been at the computer and I should have been doing a million other things. But I decided they could all go hang! Sometimes you need to look after your soul and when the days are dull and the demands of routine and duty are oppressive, the memory of the white goose and this sparkling day will keep alight that burning wild thing inside which is the essence of my being.
Morning sun on the white goose amongst its grey companions, Grafham Water Sept 1