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A Spiritually Enlightening Online Magazine. July's Theme: "Attitude"
Volume 7 Issue 5 ISSN# 1708-3265

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Attitude Adjustment: Lessons from the Geese

with Dawn Baumann Brunke

One warm summer day, many years ago, I took my young daughter and her friend to a local lake. They went to play by the water while I found a comfortable spot to sit atop a grassy hill. It was noon and the lake was crowded. Boisterous children swam, splashed and created sand castles on the shore, while parents lounged on large colorful blankets with novels, radios and suntan lotion, picnic lunches on the ready.

At the time, I was new to the idea of animal communication. I still wondered if the conversations that occurred in my head when I connected with an animal were 'real' or simply my imagination. Lucky for me, a practice opportunity presented itself in the form of two large Canadian geese. The pair waddled close by, around the grassy picnic area, snapping up crumbs and chips between the quilt-work of blankets.

Just as I began to close my eyes and tune in, hoping for a connection with the geese, I heard several small children scream and laugh behind me. I turned to watch: a tow-headed boy of perhaps 4 or 5 was tearing off chunks of his sandwich and throwing them to the geese. As the geese waddled over to retrieve the peanut buttery bread, the little boy squealed and chased the geese as fast as his chubby legs would propel him. His companions — two girls about the same age — followed suit, all three tossing out bread and then chasing the geese with little hands outstretched as if hoping to grab some tail feathers.

I was outraged! How could these children treat the geese so poorly? I cleared my throat loudly, indignantly, and looked to the parent: a large woman with dark sunglasses who was obviously oblivious, laughing and talking on a cell phone.

Fine, I thought. If that mother wouldn't be a proper parent, I will!

"Hey you kids!" I called. "That's not nice to do!" The three children stopped and looked at me suspiciously, as if I might be an alien in disguise. "Leave those geese alone!" With a communal squeal, they ran back to their mother, their blanket and picnic basket — only to ignore me and gather more sandwiches for themselves and the honking geese.

Ten minutes later, the kids filled with food and occupied with shovels and pails down by the sand, I calmed myself and re-attuned to the geese. I began by apologizing for the children and their thoughtless, rowdy ways. I wanted to assure the Geese People, I said with deep sincerity, that not all humans behave so rudely.

To my great surprise, what I got back from the geese was nothing short of shocking. Not only was it unexpected, it was unlike anything I might have imagined. For the geese did not accept my apology — nor my concern — nor my self-righteous attitude. No, what they did instead was: laugh.

How does a goose laugh? If you can conjure the goose equivalent to loud, uproarious, how-crazy-are-you human laughter, then you will understand exactly what I heard.

These geese are laughing at me, I thought, still stunned, still not understanding anything at all.

"Do you see that patch of sand over there?" one of the geese finally managed to ask me. "Do you see that strip of empty beach across the lake?"

"Yes," I replied, looking at the brown strip of sand across the sunlit water.

"And do you see these?" the goose asked, fluffing up his wings as if to take off.

"Yes," I said again. "Well," the smart-aleck goose continued with an avian chuckle, "With these we can fly away any time we want. We're having fun here. All these people with all their quacking noise, all this food, all this chasing — what a game! What fun! We are having a celebration!"

I sat in embarrassed silence. I was being enlightened by a goose! My attitude of raucous children with no respect for geese had been shattered in an instant. What I had failed to see was the deeper, truer version of the situation: a spontaneous, joyful, good-natured game of chase between light-hearted beings.

With a sigh of humility, I realized it wasn't the children that were the problem — or the seemingly inattentive mother. The problem was my own lens of perception, my own rigid attitude that wanted and decreed things to be a certain way — my neat, orderly way — and so projected 'tiny hooligans' onto one set of characters and 'feathered victims' onto another.

The problem with seeing our own projections is, of course, that they are our projections — and we humans are all too easily and often seduced by believing that the way we see the world certainly must be the 'right' way. This was lesson number one. Lesson number two was less traumatic and, in some ways, a victory. Because the carefree attitude of the geese toward the children was so outside my set of expectations, I knew I had not imagined it — which meant: maybe I actually had spoken to the geese. I had to laugh. It was a double lesson, tinged with irony — not only do we need to perceive beyond our own attitudes in order to more clearly see the world, but in doing so we also can't help but see ourselves more clearly.

Not much more was said, or needed to be said. Suddenly, it was all very clear. And so I sat, smiling stupidly in the sunshine, as the geese honked and waddled down to the shoreline — searching, no doubt, for more players to start yet another round of the game.

Dawn Baumann Brunke is the author of Animal Voices, Awakening to Animal Voices and the recently released Shapeshifting with our Animal Companions. Her books explore the deeper nature of our relationship with animals, nature, each other and ourselves. For more, see Dawn's website.

Be sure to read the reviews of her book "Awakening to Animal Voices" in our May 2005 Issue and her book "Animal Voices" January 2006 Issue.

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