There is a particular busy intersection in St. Louis—near a freeway onramp, in between the Target and Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, just behind a new housing development—which, every now and then, a family of geese crosses. More than once, I’ve just exited the freeway only to see a row of brake lights ahead of me, and I quickly slam on my brakes.
And for a few moments, all of us drivers rushing from here to there—stop. And we watch Mama Goose usher her babies across the busy street. Why now? Why here? I have no idea. But every time I witness this spectacle, I tear up a bit. And I whisper, thank you. To God, to all the drivers—for this gift of communally watching a mama protect her babies. The gift of stopping and taking a breath.
Today, as I turned the corner, signaling to get in the right lane, checking to make sure I wasn’t too close to the car ahead (always have to be careful of this at the Goose Intersection), I teared up—but this time for a different reason than usual.
As I came to a stop at the red light, I saw the smashed remains of a big goose, probably Mama Goose. And my heart broke. Oh poor Mama Goose.
And I sighed a heavy sigh.
In Dog Years, Mark Doty explores love and loss and life’s fragility by recounting his life with his furry companions—from his first dog growing up, to the stray who followed him on a vacation in Mexico and his two dear dogs who saw him through the loss of his partner to AIDS. At times, he reflects, grief felt too much to bear and he found himself asking what so many philosophers and poets have asked, why? Why such beauty and terror? Why such joy and pain?
And the answer he seems to come to is that there really is no answer. That this is just simply the way it is. The beauty and the terror. The joy and the pain. The constant changeability of life.
Doty writes, Here and gone. That’s what it is to be human, I think—to be both someone and no one at once, to hold a particular identity in the world (our names, our place of origins, our family and affectional ties) and to feel that solid set of ties also capable of dissolution, slipping away, as we become moments of attention.
And I thought of these lines as the light turned green and I went through the intersection, on my way home, to my husband with news of my day.