his is the season of the hoarse honking of geese above. As the geese return south, Impressive skeins glide across the skies, forever changing leadership and at times direction. The noise and then glimpses of the skein are such a sign of autumn. I am enthralled by their soundings and graceful advance. I find myself always looking for the geese when I hear their cries and then elated when I see them flying overhead in v-formation. Sometimes they fly low over the Bield – sometimes high up. I look at them and think how wonderful it would be if their ‘V’ indicated an arrow to follow when making decision. At times the geese have landed on our fields to feed, not altogether welcome as they can ruin a field, but what an amazing sight when several hundred take off together. Apparently their togetherness when flying and the flapping of wings reduce air friction and the ingenious v-formation means the skein can fly 70% further than a goose on its own!
Geese are often referred to as a model of good leadership and collaboration because of the way they support each other when flying . When the lead goose gets tired, it falls back and allows another goose to fly in front. All the geese are potential leaders. When a goose is in trouble two others accompany it to land and stay with it to protect and support it until it has recovered or dies.
The Holy Spirit is represented as a wild goose in Celtic spirituality, at least since George McLeod formed the Iona community, but there are many images of the wild goose in earlier Celtic documents. Very understandable as the visits from the geese would have been as frequent then as now. The personality of the wild goose is quite different from that of the dove which is a more familiar and biblical symbol of the Holy Spirit. It is good to keep them both in mind. The gentle dove blessing us with peace and understanding – the wild goose in its strength empowering us to deal with the challenges on our path in community. Let us be open to the the Dove as well as to the the Wild Goose as we open ourselves to the work of the Spirit.
What thoughts do the autumn geese inspire in you?
In her well-known poem,” Wild Geese”, Mary Oliver says this:
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, are heading home again. Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting over and over announcing your place in the family of things.
May it be so.