James H. Smith


James H. Smith: Snow GooseThe fire flashed yellow stars in the old shaman’s eyes as he looked at the children surrounding him. “I have asked my friends Coyote and Owl here tonight to help me in my story” he said “You see my story tonight is about the Snow Goose and the trueness of their hearts.” Coyote and Owl sat quiet looking on from their seats next to the children.

They all sat before a large dancing fire beside a peaceful lake. Their time was when man and animal looked out for and called each other brother and sister. They found nothing strange having the animals close; it gave them a little better understanding when they came together like this.

The Shaman spoke “Our friend Coyote is known for his cunning and slyness, nothing passes him by without notice. Owl, for being so very wise, we can see from the size and the thoughtfulness in his eyes’ he sees and understands much.”

The Sun had moved on for the day but darkness had not yet laid its hand fully upon the land; the sky a pale splash of yellows fading fast where the sun had fallen below the mountain.

Yet, still enough light remained for those sitting there, to see a large V in the darkening sky coming their way. As it came closer, they watched as it dropped down finely splitting apart and becoming separate as it fell upon the waters of the lake.

“Look” said the Shaman “The snow geese have come, now watch only the young and not yet mated will be found by themselves.” They watched and it was as the Shaman had said, the geese all white as the whitest snow in winter could be seen only in pairs.

The children waited for the Shaman to speak; when he did they found tenderness in his voice they had not heard before. “The snow geese, when they are ready, choose only one mate for life. If that mate should die, the goose will not find another. It is well known among the people, that should you see the snow geese gracing the sky on your wedding day, you have been honored and have chosen wisely from the heart.”

Owl stretched out a wing, and standing he begin to speak. “Being as I am wise and see most all, I compare the human to the goose; both look for a life mate. Think how often you have found yourself in the company of someone just because you don’t want to be alone, still finding no comfort in having them there. Yet you stay simply to not be alone. The young geese are very much like you humans in that they do not wish to be alone; only they are more patient before they mate, making sure it’s their heart, not their loneliness that brings them together. When the goose mates it is forever.” With this Owl sat down and was silent.

“Owl is very wise. It would do us all well to listen and heed his words.” said the shaman. The night had grown dark and the full moon was shining on the lake. As they all watched in silence, the geese swam by all in twos – not a single lone goose in the lake.

A small girl spoke: “What happens if one should die? What of the other?”

All eyes turned as Coyote got to his feet, stopping for a moment to scratch at his left ear with a hind foot. When he spoke, it was with a quiet shyness, yet all could plainly hear what he said.

“Last winter I was down by the round mountain south of the lake when I heard a sound of sorrow coming from the bull rushes next to the lake. Being one of curious nature I went to investigate and found an old goose crying over his fallen mate. I asked what had happened and was told his mate had been too old to fly over the mountain, hitting a rock she had fallen to the ground, he had sat by her side until she passed on. Well being the Coyote that I am, I thought here I have a nice fat snow goose for my dinner. But being softer at heart than hungry I wished him well and went on my way. Two days or so later I was passing that way again and decided to find out what had happened. I found both geese, he had laid his head across her body and simply died losing all his will to live.”

He paused for a moment, seeming to think something over, and then he spoke again.

“My cousin Wolf – he is not the gentle fellow I am, more likely to look out only for Wolf and his own family. He told me a story that once he was on the hunt to feed his mate and cubs. A large fat snow goose was his catch of the day. No sooner had he made the kill when another goose dropped from the sky, walked up to Wolf, and asked him to kill it also. It could not live here alone and wanted to accompany its mate to the spirit world. So Wolf, being the good neighbor he is, was more than happy to help.”

With this Coyote sat down.

The Shaman spoke, “If only man would not listen to loneliness and could be more like the snow goose and wait until the heart speaks. Perhaps, just perhaps there would be more laughter and fewer tears in the world.”

The small girl, the only one of the children who had spoken all evening, spoke again.” My father calls my mother Snow Goose, I always wondered why. He loves her very much; I know he loves her more than life. Do you think he will follow her to the spirit world when they leave this one?”

The Shaman smiled. “Little one, I know your mother and father. Yes they are very much like the Snow Geese. Will they follow each other? Perhaps little one, just perhaps they have been as snow geese many times.”