I was held hostage by murderous geese. That taught me a life lesson.
I lived my whole life in medium to big cities, always in condos. When COVID started in 2020, we had a 1 year old boy trapped at home. My wife and I decided to take our chances and do — in March — what many other people would end up doing later: we bought a nice home in a much smaller town. The mortgage came to be about the same as my rent in Toronto. I was already working remotely before all of that, and we agreed that if this would mean she would have to lose her job, that was a bet worth taking (spoiler alert: she didn’t, because 2 years later we were still trapped).
The first year was fantastic. Our closing date was in late June, just in time for the summer. Swimming pool, lots of barbecue, gardening, running in the backyard, and with the world still fully remote, I started to enjoy more and more the little things that our new life had to offer.
The fall was fantastic, with my very own maple tree stunningly turning red, and in the winter we could play in the snow just by opening the back door. What’s not to love?
But things were about to change. After winter came spring, our first here, and with it a flock of what is possibly the second biggest assholes in the animal kingdom. The Canada Goose. Or so I had been told! The Canada Goose has a really bad reputation. Stories abound about them attacking people for no reason, being generally a nuisance and making life miserable all over.
But not these! They were friendly, nice, and a perfect addition to my idyllic country life. My boy, for one, loved them: every morning we would go out to the backyard, he insisted he wanted to say “hi goose” and run among them. Friendly bunch.
Until one day, after spending around a month of courtship, a pair of geese that were by now regulars decided to make my home into their honeymoon resort and consummate their love. She laid eggs.
And that’s when I understood where their reputation comes from. The gentle animals turned into ferocious beasts. They took control of my backyard, and would mount guard in front of our door. We could’t even open the door without them trying to attack us. We were hostages in our own home.
The other day I saw a graph indicating that most Americans unsurprisingly aggressively overestimate how well they would fare in a fight against wild animals. Much like my American friends, I too, am convinced I could beat a goose in a fight. To be quite frank, I am a bit less bullish on my chances against a lion, but those pesky geese? Won’t stand a chance. Problem is, my then 2 year old son isn’t much of a fighter yet, and having them around was making me very nervous and was a disaster waiting to happen.
I then decided to call a crew to deal with it. Being a protected species (I don’t understand why, since they are everywhere) I had to obtain a permit. The crew — 4 people and a dog — destroyed the eggs, and a couple of days later, the lovebirds were gone. To either mate in someone else’s backyard or to lose the evolutionary race. Honestly, not my problem.
That got me thinking: having them around was a pleasure to us. The drive to protect their offspring, although totally understandable, was ultimately what led to the very destruction of their offspring. If they were a bit more chill about it, they could have totally stayed. Gosh, if we were all initially melting on a pair of geese, imagine that plus goslings! So cute. They tried too hard, and had their family crushed not despite that, but because of that.
But aren’t we the same? Sometimes, in our desperation to succeed, we create the conditions for our own demise. The salesperson that kills a done deal because they couldn’t keep their mouth shut and pushed a would be customer too hard. The manager that will usually succeed, but will start micromanaging a project because it is too important, only to bring about its doom. The relationship that fails not from lack of care, but because ultimately we cared too much, to the point of asphyxiation.
Yes, we need to care and protect the things around us, to strive, to be alert. But we often try too hard. As I reflected on this experience, I tried to internalize this and vowed to do my best to relax more, control less, and learn to let it go.
This year, they came back. I did what I could to try and dissuade them from staying here. Watered them with the garden hose, tried to chase them away. As much as they weren’t bothering me — at least yet, I was now wiser and knew I had to prevent them from nesting.
But nest they did, all the same. One day I woke up in the morning, and a couple of eggs were laid. I was really disappointed, but decided to let it go for a couple of reasons: my kid is now older, and it is easier to tell him not to go close, plus I may be doing extensive traveling in the following months. If I won’t be at my house, maybe let them have it? At least I was sure nobody would be able to rob it!
Resigned as I was, one day I woke up, to one of the most schadenfreudian scenes in (my) modern history: a formerly hungry fox decided that goose omelette was the best way to start a spring day!
No permits, no crew, no money spent. Just nature doing its job. One moment of distraction and… boom! Guess the geese should have tried harder.
The moral of the story? I truly don’t know. Maybe sometimes we’re screwed no matter what. Be it as it may, I am sure there is a lesson to be learned from these unlucky geese, but I now have no idea what that is. I guess I’ll just have to try harder.