Look, Bird tweets:
More! Pictures! (Seriously.)


« The Long Goodbye | Main | Irresistible »

Death in Summer

The geese at the lake are aggressive at this time of year.  They hiss and squawk at the dog and me when we run by in the morning, warning us not to come any closer.  Downy little goslings toddle in line behind their fearful mamas.

A June Friday night calls us to the lake on our bikes, three in a row.  Will rides the funny swing bike he just found on Craigslist, the one Ezra giggles at and calls the wiggly bike.  Ezra just proudly sized up to his Big Bike, 16 inches of rolling speed demon, and I ride the beach cruiser gifted to me last year.  Every time I ride it - often this time of year - I think of Jackie in her new life on the West coast, and Dylan, gone too soon.

Freedom hangs in the lake air on Friday evening.  No cars to avoid on the bike path.  The smoke from the nearby wildfires has cleared in the summer breeze.  Swings that go higher on demand, 'til your stomach drops out, your hair blows back, and you squeal.  The weight of another week lifts away in the clear golden light.

On the ride home toward dinner and a date with the DVD player we stop under a tree.  I notice first the several geese nervously shifting their weight back and forth, huddling near their goslings.  One goose honks plaintively, hovering over a baby convulsing on the ground.  Will and I urge Ezra onward, but he can't be pulled away.

Ez, let's go!


I don't want to get a first-hand look at life and death on Friday night at the park, but I guess that's what's happening.  I park my bike and go crouch by him.  From here I can see the baby gosling's intestines in the dirt, the plaintive mother goose and the baby's last twitches.

Why does that baby have a hole in him? Ezra wants to know.

I think an animal got his mouth on him, I say, probably a dog.  You know how animals have predators?  Well I think one hurt that baby goose.

The mama goose honks and squawks.

Why is that big bird doing that?

That's the mama and she's so sad because her baby got hurt, I say and the baby's twitching slows.   That's what mamas do.  If you ever got hurt I would cry and cry and I wouldn't be able to go on, I add, before realizing I don't want him to identify too closely with the disemboweled chick.  But I won't let anything happen to you.  I silently pray that this is true.  Let's extend for a while longer the fiction that mamas have the power to protect our children from pain.

Isn't there a doctor that can fix the hole in him?

Ummm, I don't know of any goose doctor.

Why can't Daddy fix him?

Daddy's really good at a lot of things, but I don't think he knows how to fix that goose, I say.

The goose is still.

Ezra is quiet for a minute and then asks, When it dies, is it dead forever?

Exhale.  Yes.


Because that's how it works when you die, I say, wondering if this is really true.  I am mystified by this last breath, this single moment that is the fulcrum between being and no longer being, the tipping point from which there is no return.  You can be so alive and then... not, with barely a warning.

Sit down, my friend Chuck said when he called me four years ago.  Dylan died last night.  And suddenly I couldn't breathe.

My brother's friend went dirt biking in the desert last weekend and never came home.  Search crews found his bike, wrecked, and followed his footprints for a mile.  They found his body lying peacefully, hand on his heart, his brilliant blue eyes open to the vast sky.  He was so alive, and then he wasn't, his last breath scoured by the hot desert winds.

Ezra watches the still bird at the foot of the tree carefully.  The honking has died down too.

Do you want to say a little blessing for him?

We are both puzzled about how this works, but I try.

Great Spirit, I offer, please help guide this baby goose through the transition.  Please help him find a place with lots of water and no dogs and no pain, forever.

Somehow it is enough for Ezra and we get back on our bikes.  The evening caresses us on the rest of the ride home.  It is the perfect night to be alive.

References (3)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.
  • Response
    Death in Summer - Blog - bird wanna whistle
  • Response
    Death in Summer - Blog - bird wanna whistle
  • Response
    Your blogging style is different and I like it very much. It is like poetry. I am regular visitor to your website. Your blog gives me deep insight into human relations and tragidies. Keep posting the good work

Reader Comments (7)

Oh, Corinna, so many things to love about this piece, after I finished crying. Perfect capture of the feelings of a summer evening at the end of a hard week. Exquisite detail throughout. World class parenting with that omnipresent undercurrent of fear and ambivalence. Courage to set the subject of death against the joy of summer and your boundless love for Ezra. Expert foreshadowing by mentioning Dylan in the second paragraph. So much more. Reminds me of the theme of Cheryl Strayed's "Wild", how we learn to bear unbearable things. I am grateful for your talent, your heart and our friendship.

June 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMarjorie Seawell

Oh wow. You always have such a way with words. I will be first in line to buy your first novel. For real, girl. You have IT. xo

June 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterCherish

Beautiful story, Corinna.

June 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterLogan

I noticed my old hen Cocoa sitting in the grass for long stretches two Saturdays ago. Then standing motionless by the garden. When I went to talk to her about this odd behavior she kept still and watched me, as though listening. Not how busy hens usually are.
I felt she was leaving. I told her I was sorry i couldn't help her. I thanked her for her endless entertainment, and eggs, and tick-eating. I told her I loved her.
She made it onto her roost that night, but in the morning she was dead on the coop floor.
I was good to my word to Cocoa and buried her early on that misty morning on the little patch of world she roamed since a hatchling. The blessing I invoked was for all the hens I've had who've gone before her...and met endings we didn't discuss beforehand.
Sad things come out of happy things...and go back around.

June 19, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterKathleen

Gorgeous, beautiful writing. Always a blessing to read your words. xoxo

Beautiful. Of course I can't help but make it personal. My nephew gone. Too early. Too tragic. We're coming up on the second year without him. His birthday is on the same day as mine. I never did mind sharing a cake. I wish I would have told him that.

This piece shares a precious memory not only between you and your son, but of a dear person lost to you. Thank you for sharing this moment.

June 20, 2013 | Unregistered Commentercarmen

tears just welled in my eyes as i read your post. wow. thanks for sharing and making me more aware of everything.

June 25, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterrebecca cope

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>