As a child, I was terrified of geese, courtesy of some hissing ones I’d pass on the way to school. One of them managed to jab its beak at me through the gate when I was about five, making me give it a wide berth and scurry past with a racing heart from then on.
It did no lasting damage. I hadn’t though much about geese since I stopped walking past them on my way to school. Spending two decades living in London and Brighton meant that geese weren’t much of a hazard (though getting goosed was an occasional issue in London…)
I couldn’t tell you the last time I saw a goose (aside from the geese detailed in this post). But I can guarantee that the next time I see them is going to be soon, as I have fallen in love with geese, courtesy of a trip Watermead Park.
Home of the Geese
Watermead consists of several lakes at its core, set in beautiful countryside, complete with hills – and a mammoth.
The local councils joined forces in the early 1980s to create the beauty spot on derelict sand and gravel pits beside the River Soar.
It’s a wonderful example of the beauty that can come from collaboration to support communities and nature.
My partner suggested a trip there the other day. I’d never been before and the idea appealed – particularly as it was the final day of 30 Days Wild, and I wanted to have some memorable adventures so I could ‘go out with a bang’.
We parked in the south carpark, walked for about two minutes and, more or less immediately, we were surrounded by geese.
I had forgotten my childhood memory, and was distracted from it by three goslings: quite possibly the cutest birds I have ever seen (and I say that as a huge duckling fan).
They are vocal. They are confident. They are slightly gawky. They are demanding. They are extremely friendly. They reminded me of the way I feel on my more energetic days. And there was no way that I could resist their demands for food.
Luckily, I always carry bird seed or oats, along with wildflower seed in season. This makes it easy to connect with nature in a second: and experience its full joys as I can always tempt a cute bird to come closer to be photographed, or fill a grey area with future hope, in the form of wildflowers. Hippy as it sounds, it makes me happy.
And so I fed the goslings. And I fed the geese. And I got to watch them, surrounded by them in the style of ‘The Birds’ – and loving every second.
It was only when I looked through the photos that I remembered my childhood fear. It is safe to say I am no longer scared of birds this cute and open. They know what they want and they ask for it, politely enough, though I drew the line at hand-feeding them.
When I got home, I wanted to research geese, to see what reputation they have outside the fears of five-year-olds.
Apparently, geese have long held mythological significance, across many cultures. They were sacred to Artemis, and in China, couples are apparently often given a pair of geese on their wedding day; while geese were considered to be witch’s familiars and serve as steeds for them (suggesting these were petite witches).
Geese have long been highly considered thanks to the mystery evoked by their migration habits. I felt validated in my goose-love when I discovered “the flight pattern formation of wild geese allows for the support of the weaker members of the flock. Each Goose in turn, takes its place at the head and then drops back in strict rotation. The weak or tired are never abandoned in this system.”
Geese are better than people. We should all #BeMoreGoose.
Wild geese are also an important symbol in Hindu mythology. Apparently, Brahma is, “depicted as riding on a magnificent gander, which is thus the manifestation on the animal plane of the god’s creative principle an a symbol of freedom through spiritual purity.”
If you see geese as a personal totem, you apparently want to maintain the good life for friends and community, and can tap into the power of stories to help everyone achieve their dreams – which also sounds good to me.
Perhaps the most famous goose is Beatrix Potter’s Jemima Puddleduck. This may be why geese have a reputation for being silly (Native American legends also depict geese as gullible creatures, easily taken in by tricksters). I could certainly see Jemima Puddleduck in the geese that I met – particularly this one.
If you get a chance, visit Watermead. If it’s nowhere near you, find your nearest lake or canal and see if you can find some geese. They may be noisy, but we could all learn to be better people from geese.
Be more goose.