Delta Dreaming: Loneliness

            They say that Canadian Geese may mourn for up to two years after the loss of a mate. They are monogamous and it happens that, from time to time, one is left alone. We have one of those on the farm pond at Wattensaw now and it is a mournful site. See the photograph below.

            Normally, they swim in groups, or pairs. After the young ones come along, they swim in a straight line, the young between the parents. Sometimes the lead parent brings them closer for you to get a good look, proud parents showing off their young.

            The other geese that have been hanging out have gone somewhere for a while. Maybe this one didn’t have the heart to go without a mate. Maybe it was a “couples-only” cruise. Maybe they are off teaching this year’s brood some lessons of life, so this one had no reason to go.

            At any rate, it is sad to see it swimming alone. Some think that animals have no feelings. Myself, I can’t help wondering what this one may be thinking—or remembering.

            I’ve always maintained that pure loneliness is the sound of “Taps” being played on a military base when the closest person who cares if you wake up in the morning or not is a thousand miles away. On the other hand, it might be a quiet country pond where you and your mate returned year after year to raise your young, and where you now face life alone.

            We’ve been contemplating selling off the family farm in another part of the county. To some, it is just vacant land with a modest house still standing in one spot. I know, though, that for my mother-in-law it is much more than that. I see it when she stops from time to time and stares off at the fields where we used to wait for her husband to come home from the day’s plowing so we could gather around the supper table.

            To her, it is still the place they built with their own hands, the place where a little blond-haired girl took her first wobbly steps, and then in the blink of an eye was leaving for her senior prom as her Aunt Marie recorded the event with a home movie camera. Once, as she tackled the lonely job of discarding treasures collected over a lifetime, Hazel turned to Brenda and said, “I feel like I am stealing.”

            We try, and I think we help, but it must be hard to miss the person who stood at your side for more than fifty years. All we can do is make sure that, as long as we are able, she will not have to swim in the lonely pond of life alone.


“What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.” - Kurt Vonnegut



Swimming alone-facing the loss of a mate
Swimming alone-facing the loss of a mate

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