Toussiant column: The good sense God gave a goose
December 29, 2017
My brother Gene recently emailed me, noting that I like to "be politically active." His concern was the "chemtrails" conspiracy. He says it will ensure that I won't live long enough to collect the Social Security I've paid into for half a century.
Another thing to be politically active about?! My sibling doesn't know I write political columns, constantly pester members of congress, visit Corey Gardner's Grand Junction office and regularly donate to environmental organizations and candidates for office.
Some weeks I feel I'm running around like a chicken with its head cut off — frantically trying to keep vultures in Washington from killing off what I like best about my life and our country. I'm tormented over the widening gap between rich and poor, attacks on public education, denial of science, separation of church and state, racism, health care, upcoming attacks on the "entitlements" of Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security, mass extinction of species, global warming …
Despair is my worst enemy. I lived through the riots, fires, assassinations and impeachment in the 1970s. Hard as it was to have Ken Burn's "Vietnam" series bring back the visceral memory of those times, I have to say that these days are darker still.
I don't know about chemtrails. My brother has delivered earnest lectures about Area 51 and Anunnaki aliens who re-engineered our DNA so that humans would mine gold for them. One might say those insights, plus his military secrecy clearance (he's a retired Navy submariner) might give him insight into chemtrails? Hmm. Gene thinks this conspiracy is connected to HAARP, the government's High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program. While manipulating weather for defense purposes via HAARP, the government is damaging the environment. Life on earth now has seven years to survive …
I'm not usually a conspiracy theorist, but I do think that the current GOP is working to dismantle the health care system, void "entitlements" we have paid for, shred the social safety net, decimate science and environmental protections … and along with that, threaten the survival of most of my favorite species, humans among them.
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Personally, I'm not going down without a fight.
Getting out into nature helps revive my spirit. Sometimes, outdoors, when I hear Canadian geese flying close and calling overhead, I'm reminded of Mary Oliver's poem "Wild Geese":
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on…
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.
As I walk along, I practice gratitude: How fortunate I am to occupy my niche in the family of things, and to be in this place especially. I have never gone hungry. I got a good education. I'm healthy enough to enjoy this glorious day. I live in a blessed spot. In the United States. In Colorado. In the Roaring Fork Valley.
As I trundle along, listening to Canada geese honking overhead, I reflect on the good sense God gave geese. While flying in a V, each goose creates uplift for the goose behind it. By drafting, like bike racers, the flock achieves a 71 percent greater flying range than one bird alone would have. Honking geese aren't whining "are we there yet?" They're encouraging their leaders to keep up the good work. And when the lead goose tires, it rotates back into formation. Another goose flies to the point position.
These are the lessons of community — good to remember in these dark and perilous times.
Often, on my rambles, I'll meet a neighbor: Carbondale photographer Julie Albrecht on her bike, carrying munchies to the goats we visit. Basalt arborist Kim Bock nursing the cottonwoods. Glenwood yogi and piano teacher Annig Agemian Raley spreading peace and cheer.
Seems I can't go anywhere in the Roaring Fork Valley anonymously. I always bump into someone I'm glad to see, so glad I feel a rush of joy on encountering them. If I were a goose, I'd honk out loud.
Although none of us, individually, gets out of this world alive, I want the family of things to survive. So I'm grateful to be held in concentric rings of community, to be in formation with others who will be there for the long flight.
Nicolette Toussaint lives in Carbondale. Her column appears monthly.