Saturday, May 29, 2010

What Have I Become In My Rush to Get Where I'm Going?

Canadian Geese crowd the Old Soul's schoolyard (taken from the car window at dismissal).

I am by nature a nature lover and animal lover. I thrive and feel the greatest peace when I'm immersed in and mindful of nature, surrounded by animals. For me, a 5-Star hotel can't hold a candle to the great outdoors.

Sadly, I'm finding lately that life's pressures -- just taking care of business -- sometimes get in the way of being one with nature and all of God's creatures. Fixing my house, driving my kids, writing my blog, advocating for people with special needs, putting dinner on the table, catching up on email, etc. are all things I choose to do. And while that IS a good thing 'cause they all HAVE TO get done there's important stuff that I'm not attending to. All these tasks that have to be done crowd out most of the opportunities I have to enjoy the beautiful world around me. I forget to take the time, to make the time, to attend to the natural world!

And I've been suffering terrible guilt the last several days as a function of my lack of focus on this gift of nature.

Running between school drop-offs, doctor's appointments, CPSE meetings, food shopping, cleaning the house, folding the laundry, and then after-school pick-ups, therapy schedules, after-school activities, and maintaining bath- and night-time routines, etc. I neglected one of God's creatures. Driving along the Cross Island Parkway on the way to picking up the boys, I saw one of those beautiful tan and black Canadian Geese stuck on the roadside edge of the guardrail. Panicked because of the heavy, fast-moving traffic the goose was trying to get himself over the rail but did not have the luxury of take-off space which, if you've ever watched a goose take flight, is critical. He couldn't fly over that rail and he was about 75 feet from the exit ramp where he could clear the roadway and get safely back in the grass. As I passed in the fast lane -- 2 lanes between me and that graceful animal -- I was torn between stopping and trying to help -- I could try to redirect the traffic away from that lane (potentially quite dangerous) until the goose was safe -- and moving on to pick up The Boys from their preschool on the north shore by 2:30 and getting back to the south shore to pick up my Old Soul from her school at 3:05. I didn't want my anxious little girl standing in the schoolyard alone and feeling abandoned by her mother (as she is predisposed to do). If you're from Long Island, you know that successfully making such a trip in the short amount of time I have is no easy feat. I struggle daily to do so and often fail. But on this day, I watched that goose, and felt his terror, and did nothing as he faded from view in my rear view mirror. Even as he disappeared from my sight, I went on worrying all day and all night about whether he made it; angry at the drivers who whizzed past him with complete disregard for his safety. Minimizing the importance of his life. After all, he's a HUGE Canadian Goose in the middle of a vast parkway. TOTALLY visible. No reason to hit a target like that.... Every opportunity to avoid such a collision. I considered doubling back and attempting to herd him towards the exit ramp but dismissed that thought as I might actually drive the poor, lost animal into traffic and to his death. I rationalized that he was close to safety and intervening might spook him... so I should leave it alone. I copped out!

The sight of him panicking as he attempted time after time to fly over that guardrail haunted me all day and night.

It wasn't until the next day as I was once again picking up The Boys from school that I learned that beautiful bird's sad fate. He'd made it all the way to the exit ramp when some uncaring, unfocused driver (probably on a cell phone) cut him down when he was so close to safety. His beautiful feathers matted with blood and long slender neck bent and broken unnaturally, I saw his once sinewy body laying still in the gutter. I cried! I'm crying now! Why did I choose not to take the 5, 10 or 15 minutes it would have taken to stop and help that goose? I might have saved his life! It occurred to me "he" might have been a mama goose with eggs or goslings in the grass. It occurred to me that I did the WRONG thing by justifying my lack of attention to the immediate needs of that beautiful creature in favor of moving through my busy little life and attending to insignificant tasks compared to saving his life. The Boys were safe at school. They could wait another 15 minutes. The Old Soul and I have a plan that if I'm not there AT pick-up time she should go to the playground and play with her friends under the watchful eye of several parents who know to keep an eye on her until I show up a few minutes late if traffic delays my arrival. I could have helped that goose. I might have saved his or her life.
One of God's beautiful creatures perished because I was too busy to do the right thing! THAT is not my nature. I had to actually ignore my nature, my heart, everything my mind and body were saying to me to drive past that graceful but frightened bird and not take action!

I'm sick over my poor judgement. When did I become so callous to think that my ridiculously over-burdened schedule (all my own doing) was more important than another life? Ah, but it was just a goose, you say? When and how did we humans come to the conclusion that we are more important in the grand scheme of things than any other life form... than a goose? I think it's this self important, greater than thou mentality in our society that is at least part of what's wrong with the world these days. People have little consideration for any one else. Their mission is more important than everyone and anyone elses. Special education committees make decisions based on budgets instead of childrens' needs. People fail to hold open a door for someone behind them because they're in a rush to get to that appointment all of 10 seconds sooner. Drivers fail to yield because getting to their destination is more important than common courtesy (never mind driving laws). Frankly, I'm embarrassed that I did not do the right thing as I have always tried to live my life (and teach my children) to do just that... the right thing! Even when it's harder. Even when it's not convenient to do so. But in this instance I consciously chose not to do the right thing and one of God's creatures lost it's life because of my apathy.

I promise you -- and, more importantly, I promise myself -- this will not happen again!


  1. I know the feeling you're having and there's no way out of it, except time,and that time when you can at least start to pay it back...There are rationalizations for both sides of the situation and none of them really help the poor goose...but, you DID care enough to carry his sorrowful journey in your heart and to write about it. Maybe that was his/her purpose, to force you to reflect and maybe change some of your priorities...come visit when you can...

  2. I know what you mean! when life gets so frenzied that you must dismiss things that normally you would never even question, somethings got to give.
    Lately our lives as a family have been insane to say the least. When Andrew asked me to read him a story, and my response was " i don't have time right now" I felt immediate remorse, What the heck was I doing that couldn't wait five minutes. The dishes?? I don't even remember.
    We run and run and run every day. And most things we need to do. school and dinner, necessities. But some how other things just find their way on to our plates. Until somethings got to give.

    Just the fact that it bothers you so much is admirable. Most people wouldn't have even noticed the goose. I too would be thinking about him. He might just have been a lesson to us all. i will always remember "your" goose as we have them everywhere here. and when I see one I will remember to slow down. Enjoy things. take the time to make the time for the really important things.

    Thanks for writing this post.

  3. dear maggie, please know that as a result of your horrible experience with this unlucky goose, and hence your post, you're likely saving the life of every animal i stop to help cross the road in the future, as you've inspired me to quit driving by them thoughtlessly on the way to my comparatively unimportant destination. this goose will not have died in vain. i hope this is true for your other readers as well. thank you for sharing.

  4. Sigh.... thought so many times. But I know LI traffic- you could've been killed! We just had a elderly woman trying to help a cat who got killed and this is VT!
    I would've cried too. Sigh, sad.
    Great post.

  5. Well said: "When and how did we humans come to the conclusion that we are more important in the grand scheme of things than any other life form...?" Lovely post, and I think it will do a world of good for others to read it. We're all too busy. Let's slow down and take more care of ourselves and the creatures around us. Don't feel too badly; you have learned from this and other creatures will benefit in the future.