By Anna Olson
How do geese know when to fly to the sun?
Who tells them the seasons?
How do we humans know when it is time to move on?
As with the migrant birds, so surely with us, there is a voice within, if only we would listen to it, that tells us so certainly when to go forth into the unknown.
(The Wheel of Life)
(The Wheel of Life)
When I think back to when geese and I were first introduced, I would say it was through my dad being a hunter. He would bring home geese and ducks for plucking, singeing, eviscerating, and of course eating. I was a good helper, especially for pulling out the innards, as my small hands could get into the cavities better than his larger ones. I don’t remember any prayers or reverence for the birds. My dad was a farm boy and was continuing the practice of shooting birds to feed his family.
The next incident I remember is standing in Grant Park Mall parking lot, staring in awe as a big flock of geese flew directly over me. (I was probably in my late thirties at the time. I’m late sixties now.) When I got home, I put my thoughts on paper.
It’s spring, and the geese are flying overhead, squawking their way to the northeast. I am thrilled they have chosen to fly over me. I watch hypnotized: the beating and flapping, squawking and jockeying for position, the familiar V-shape plus stragglers and independents. Such purpose and intensity. They didn't even pack a lunch! No money, no hotels! Does the farmer know they're coming down in his grain field? Our rivers and marshes and lakes have cleared their ice to be ready for them.
I want to fly away, too.
Twice a year they leave home. So much energy used up in migration when it could be put to better use! But being alive means being active. Does it matter what we do as long as we are active?
Do you fly the friendly skies as the airline advertises? Do airplanes get in your way? What about eagles and hawks?
Are you running away from anything – or running open-winged to something?
Such powerful movements of animals, birds and insects: mammals beneath the sea and on land, insects beneath the ground, birds and butterflies in the air. So much is invisible to us humans. I feel small and insignificant in the face of their intuitive knowledge and fearless plunge into the unknown.
I feel a heart connection to the flock of geese, and I wish them well on their journey.
So thanks for flying over me today, geese. Bon voyage.
Lots of Geese at Grand Marais
In my mid-fifties, I moved to Grand Marais (a community near Grand Beach, Manitoba). A flock of geese flew over my house on the day I moved in. I didn’t see them because I was in the house but I heard them. Also, my friends sitting outside called to me as they were going over. I thought that was a good omen, a sign I was in a good place. I was into making and selling pottery so I put a tribute to geese on the little cards I attached to my pottery.
There were lots of geese at Grand Marais on the edge of Lake Winnipeg. There were marshes and sheltered bays and small islands that the geese loved for feeding and breeding. I watched the young goslings grow from leggy balls of yellow fluff, to larger grey youngsters, then to young adults with the familiar black and white markings, ready to fly south. I loved the sound of the honking and flapping of powerful wings. I would sit on a grassy spot nearby a feeding flock and commune with them, always aware of the sentinel’s watchful gaze, alert to any signs of danger, including me if I tried to get too close. Sometimes they would fly low above the town heading for a grassy spot for feeding or to the sheltered bay to feed in the shallow waters.
My heart always sang when geese were near. They were my friends, my buddies, my inspiration.
I wasn’t totally happy living at Grand Marais. I had trouble fitting in. I was feeling lonely, especially in the winter as fewer relatives and friends came out from Winnipeg, and it was harder for me to go there. I thought I would try renting out my house for the winter so I advertised its availability. One evening I was in my kitchen, about to pull the blinds and turn on the light. There’s still a bit of outside light left. I’ll wait a few minutes before pulling the blinds, I said to myself.
Two minutes later, I heard honking and several geese came from the west and flew over my house. As my kitchen faced west, I got a good look at them. As usual, my heart thrilled to the sight and sound of the geese.
The next day, a couple came to look at the house with the intention of renting it. As I sat there talking with them, I went into an altered state and felt three thought forms drop into my head. They expanded into the words: It is time for you to move on. These are the people who are moving in. The geese came to say good-bye.
What a shock! The thoughts were so clear. You know the saying “get your ducks in a row”? These thought forms dropped into my brain in a row at the top of my head from front to back.
Because I loved the geese so much, I wanted to follow their advice. I let the people move in, and I migrated south to Winnipeg. I told people, “I’m going south for the winter – to Winnipeg!” (I have to tell you, one of my fantasies is to follow the geese south in the fall, and see where at least some of them go for the winter, then come back here in the spring as they do.)
The family moved in (two parents and three children) and my problems began. Because the geese told me that these were the ones to move in, I didn’t ask for references. If I had, I would have found out that they had a habit of not paying their rent. What a shock! I didn’t have much experience renting out property and for a while accepted the woman’s excuses for bounced cheques: my bank didn’t register my deposit quickly enough, I wrote the cheque on the wrong account, etc. I found I had to drive out from Winnipeg and ask for cash. By the time they moved out in nine months, I had collected about half the rent I was owed.
Why was this happening to me?! I shook my fist at the renters, the geese, and the universe in general. A psychic friend tuned in and said I was going through this turmoil because I had some lessons to learn. I accepted this pronouncement and tried to figure out what my side of the problem was. I realized that the renter woman reminded me of a certain relative of mine who was smiling on the surface and “empty” underneath. Because the law says you can’t evict families when children are in school, it took me a while to get over the helpless feeling and finally ask them to leave. Thankfully they left without trashing the place.
Throughout this ordeal, close friends and relatives who knew my goose story were surprised that I didn’t throw away my love for geese. I trusted that this ordeal was for my highest good, and I focused on what I was learning from it. I finally did sell my house at Grand Marais. On the last day when I went to the grocery store to hand in my postal box key, I saw the Winnipeg Sun’s front page headline: “Geese is the Word.” Of course I bought a paper, and still have the clippings of the pictures and text. In my mind, goose spirit managed to influence the editors to feature geese on my last day.
Am I crazy to think this? Maybe, but this is how I live – partly in this world, and partly in a world where magical things really can happen.
Back in Winnipeg, I found a book called Goose Girl by Joe McLellan and Matrine McLellan, illustrated by Rhian Brynjolson (Pemmican Publications, 2007).
Goose Girl is about Marie, a Métis girl living with her family in Northern Canada near a lake plentiful with geese. Marie loved to walk to the lake to watch the geese landing, swimming, feeding, and taking off. Her mother told her that geese have a special task. “When we die, the geese take our spirits south into the sky to our Promised Land.”
One night right after her tenth birthday, Marie heard a noise behind her as she walked home from the lake. When she got to her house, she turned and saw that a particular goose had followed her home. Marie squatted down so she and the goose could look each other in the eye. This happened many times.
Grandfather was watching this friendship develop between Marie and the geese. He said that if she liked, she could be called Niskaw, the Cree word for goose. Excited and happy, Marie said yes. “You will still be Marie,” Grandfather said, “but Niskaw makes you more than Marie. It makes you able to bring the teachings and the healings of the geese to our people.”
Grandfather told Marie, “You will do the work of the geese. This is how you will help our people. Put this [tobacco] on the water, Niskaw, as an offering to your brothers and sisters, the geese.”
When her grandfather died of old age, Niskaw took tobacco, ran to the lake and spread it on the water. She called to the geese, “Take Mishoom’s spirit to our ancestors, south to the Promised Land.”
Niskaw walked home with her goose following. She was very sad about her grandfather’s death. “When she reached home, Niskaw sat down on the ground and hung her head. Her goose hopped into her lap and nestled into her chest. Niskaw wrapped her arms around her goose and buried her face into its soft feathery back and cried harder than she had ever cried in her whole life. When she stopped, her goose hopped down and flew back to the lake.”
Every day for the rest of her life Marie visited the sick, comforted the dying, and called the geese to take their spirits home. When Marie was very old, she walked to the lake and called to her goose. Then “she lay her cane down on the sand and she and her goose flew away together, forever.”
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When I first read Goose Girl, I thought it was a lovely, heart-warming myth. Imagine my surprise when a dialogue with the geese suggested the book was based on truth.
A few days after moving to Lions Place in Winnipeg (I’m in my mid sixties by then), I saw several geese fly by my living room window. I am on the eleventh floor with the living room window facing east. The geese were heading north.
I have found that I can connect with spirit entities through dialogue on paper. I write ‘from myself’ with my right hand and answer ‘from spirit’ with my left hand. I pretend the spirit I am attempting to communicate with is "overshadowing" me – that is, entering my body and speaking through me, rather than sitting opposite me. Here is what resulted:
Anna: Hi geese. I'm so happy to see you fly by my window. My heart is happy. You flew over my Grand Marais house when I moved in there. My heart is happy when I see you. Was your flying by special for me?
Geese: There is a connection with the Goose Girl story. Geese help souls go to the other side. You are giving "On the Nature of Life After Death" workshops. We are your spirit helpers. Please do the rattle activity for us. Cormorant spirit is helping, too. They go into deep water. The geese feed in more shallow water. Water is for emotion: flowing water, flowing emotions.
Anna: Thank you geese. I hadn't made that connection between the book Goose Girl and my workshops and my strong interest in life after death. Maybe I'll use Goose Girl in future workshops or in my writing. Did you help Evelyn [a friend who had recently died] with her transition or do you just help when people have a belief in the role of geese?
Geese: Evelyn transitioned easily. She didn't need much help. Our help can be invisible when there is lack of belief. Thanks for your love of us. You used to eat us because your dad shot us. It's OK to eat us for food but there was a lack of reverence. Now you have reverence. Work with us.
* * *** * * *
My reaction: I was surprised they gave no response to the "fly-by" incident; they just leapt into the message they had for me, that they are part of my guidance for my writing efforts and workshops (now called “Exploring the Mysteries of Life and Death”).
Also surprising was the request for me to “rattle” for them. A few years ago, I was told by a shamanic teacher to shake a rattle while walking backing and forth, pretending I’m a certain animal or bird. In shamanic lore, our animal and bird spirit helpers like to experience earthly existence through this exercise. I used to do it for geese and cormorant spirit but fizzled after a while. Time to start rattling again!
The phrase ‘work with us’ made an impact on me as well. It felt like encouragement to continue with writing about after-life topics, and to keep offering workshops. Now, when I hear of someone who has had a sudden death and whose spirit might be stranded on the astral plane, I call on goose spirit to help them go to the right level in the after-life.
That's my story of my life with goose spirit so far. I'm happy to keep honouring them and working with them as best I can.