Duck, Duck, Goose
Updated: Feb 15, 2022
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A goose taught me a valuable lesson yesterday. As most animals in nature tend to do.
They arrive to impart knowledge and wisdom I never know I need. Though these lessons are typically something I’ve previously already asked my Spirit guides to teach me during silent moments of meditation. And arrive they do. Always on time and specific.
Most of the time, I can’t make the lessons up myself. And even question my reality. If it’s all true. Because they unfold like scripted scenes directly out of a movie. “Who wrote this,” I sometimes ask. “Who sent this goose that I’m seeing myself in.” It was very clear what it needed to teach me. Why it commanded my attention in the first place was loud.
Here’s what I mean.
I went to visit Kichi Zibi after a long and tiring week. (I recently learned that Kichi Zibi is the original Anishinaabe name for the Ottawa River). Anyway, I was sitting alongside the river. Butt cheeks uncomfortable against hard boulder rocks that separate the water from the land.
A gaggle of geese was splashing in the water. Side note: Yes, a gaggle of geese. Google says, “The collective noun for a group of geese on the ground is a gaggle; when in flight, they are called a skein, a team, or a wedge; when flying close together, they are called a plump.” Who knew geese commanded so much attention to nuances.
After a short time, I noticed that most of the geese were heading to the shore. Toward the grass where my yoga mat and personal belongings were. The Canadian Museum of History behind it. But first, they would have to cross the boulders I was observing them from. The rocks were set up like steps, layered one on top of the other. A few jumped up the first flight of steps with ease, continuing with the next and so forth until they had made it to the other side.
But one goose stuck out.
They say it takes one to know one. And I knew this one when I saw it. Immediately.
This confident one came gliding across the water, almost majestically. Capturing my attention. It was giving, “Oh, you think you’re fancy huh,” type vibes. Out of nowhere, it jumped, like the other geese before it had done successfully. Well, not this one.
It jumped, missed the landing chest first. Its body hit the rock obstructing it. Sending it sliding back down into the water. Or rather, shoreline. Myself and the other geese watched in sheer humiliation. At least I did. So embarrassing. You had to see it for yourself. Epic fail. And I was so lucky to have watched it unfold.
That’s when I knew it was me. I’ve written before about some of my own shame stories in blog posts like Shame and Money; Money and Shame, The Destructive Trump Era and Me, and "I Ego You". Its failure felt familiar. "Only, I would miss again on the second try too,” I thought to myself.
Obviously, I study shame. So, I wondered instantly if ducks and geese also feel shame like we humans do.
In, Octavia Butler and the Object of Shame as Contagion, I use Sara Ahmed’s work to talk about shame as an invisible energetic object that circulates across social and psychic fields. If the object of shame moves in and through our environments, these geese must encounter shame in some way. What does it do to them? How do they maneuver? Can they even tell?
I continued to watch myself in goose form to see if it acted similarly to how I have when I’ve been publicly humiliated or embarrassed myself in the presence of others.
To my surprise. It did how I did. How most of us do and have done.
It got back up. Pretended nothing had happened. Stuck its chest out and shimmied ever so slightly. In shame research, this looks like hyper-superiority when in fact, our inferiority complex is loud. Our ego is bruised but we perform like we're okay. Sometimes, we even blame or project onto others to take the pressure off us. While making them the new target of humiliation. I'm not sure that geese get too deep into some of these maladaptive human characteristics. But its immediate reaction also felt familiar.
Then, it looked around a bit, but actually, not really at all. Braced itself for a re-do without much thought. Tried again. And also missed again. For a second time. “A major blow to the ego for sure,” I imagined. "Do geese have egos? In any case, that’s a Dorothy if I ever saw one. What a yikes!"
Meanwhile. Other geese are now passing it at this point. No one else has jumped and missed. Just that one. So I can’t even chalk it down to something that just happens in these moments. I'm sure they do. Geese probably fail landings all the time. But this goose was the lone loser. How again, I knew it was sent to give me a lesson.
“Pay attention to what happens next,” said my intuition. “You will need to see this in order to do differently”.
That’s when I knew that, “the third time’s the charm”.
I sensed immediately it would land on its third try. But it had to add a new variable to the equation if it was going to do differently than the last two times.
I wanted to see how it would bounce back this time.
After the 2nd failed attempt. It changed its approach and game plan, assuming it had one. (I’m clearly personifying the goose as a human, if you haven’t noticed by now, I don’t actually study or know geese patterns, nor am I an expert on geese, or anything other than myself for that matter).
In any case, like the ethnographer that I am, I watched it. And let me tell you, geese psychology is fascinating. It matured instantly, or so I assumed. It had to.
I saw it hang it's head a bit, beak dipping into the water every now and then. It made its way to a different area, still close by. Spread its wings, and shook its whole body big-big. As if releasing and shedding the experience. A lesson in surrender and letting go. A reminder to step aside in solitude. Be alone, even when among others. Take a moment of pause for yourself. After that, it moved slow. Real slow. Wading with more intention. Not focusing on the rocks or the steps. Not minding the other geese coming and going. It just entered this realm of being absorbed in its own method.
At one point, I didn’t even think it was going to make another attempt. I thought maybe it had forgotten or given up.
I wanted to know its interior world. What was it thinking? Do geese think? How was it recalibrating? What information was it receiving? I wanted to know everything. Soak in all the lessons this moment had to offer.
“No one would believe me if I told them this,” I thought. “This is too good to be true. Like a short made specifically for me.” As I was thinking about the synchronicity of it all. How I so badly needed to witness this, suddenly. Out of nowhere, it tried again.
This time, it made the landing. It was successful. It made it across. After the moment of pause. It made. Fascinating. I was so proud of it. I hope that the next time that I jump, after several failed attempts, that I too make it.
Then, it kept it moving like none of it ever happened. As it waddled off, I thanked it for the lesson. In return, it asked that I draw it and engage in further study. There are lessons that geese have for me. I'm being called to listen. They can tell me something about comebacks after public falls.
Until then, I’m doing as this Dorothy Goose did. I’m moving slow and intentionally. Observing those around me, but not really. Hanging my head down only when I have to dip my beak in the water or the Underworld. Stepping into solitude to shake things off and surrender. Staying close to others and the community. Not watching those that pass by me. Allowing myself to get lost in my own magic. Strategizing and planning. Reframing, resting and recuperating. Being patient and learning the lessons. Parting with shame and thanking embarrassment.
Then, taking the leap of faith when everyone least expects it.
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Until next time, in solidarity.
Photo Cred: Dorothy Attakora-Gyan
Image Description: Geese roaming the grounds of the Canadian Museum of History next to Kichi Zibi (Ottawa River).