She was driving a little slower than other traffic in the right lane of the Interstate with her arm hanging out the window. With her armpit nearly on the sill, her arm hung low with the back of her hand facing forward and palm to the rear with fingers slightly curved. It was quite the opposite of a child who might stick their arm out an open window as if it were a wing, twisting the wrist to cause the arm to fly up or down. Her arm just hung there. The wind created by a 70-mile-per-hour speed limit seemed to have no effect.
Closing the distance and coming up even with her car, her face came into view—unsmiling, a blank stare down the highway, the kind of look that had deep thoughts behind it. Only minimal attention, enough to keep her auto in the lane.
My thoughts of travel turned to pondering hers. Was she driving to work, a job she disliked? Was she on her way to meet someone, or an emergency with memories filling her mind? Was she running away?
Soon, her car was viewable in the mirrors, and I was lost in my own thoughts, rehashing decisions, remembering fond memories, and thinking about the future, and wondering if the young lady arrived safely.
While I was on the road, my wife, Lin, told me a story I could not get out of my head. It is a story of mating and companionship that some humans are fortunate enough to know and experience. After a little research, looking into a few details and visiting the site upon my return, here is the story. I hope you are as moved as I was when I heard this.
Lin has one of the best office space locations, a corner space on the fourth floor of a building with lots of glass. It is a window on the world, facing southwest. Lin is a hard worker and does not spend a lot of time window gazing—she’s too busy. But, when a pair of Canada Geese caught her eye, she would take a look and check on them.
If ever there is an animal that is a model of love and companionship for life, it is the Canada Goose. When a pair mates, it mates for life. They are monogamous creatures and Canada Geese live 10 to 24 years. The have a wing span of 4-6 feet—big birds.
It’s springtime. Canada Geese are mating and building nests, and they can be very protective. Sometimes the nest location is not necessarily the best for human convenience. This pair started a nest near the office parking.
A woman with young kids, perhaps the family of one of the other employees, came to the office complex and spotted the geese. For some unknown reason, the kids thought the geese were tame, and mom should have known better. The kids approached the big birds as if they were at a petting zoo. The Canada Geese had other ideas about their nest and approaching humans, little or not. With hissing and a five-foot wingspan, charging goose, the kids got chased off, and mother was trying to hustle the kids back into the safety of the van like any mother protecting her brood. Immediately afterword, the “vicious animals” were reported to building security.
A day or two later, Lin reported there was only one Canada Goose, most likely the male. He kept walking to the nest and looking around. He would call out to his mate, but there was no answer. He would wander around the parking lot and along the street looking and calling out. But there was no answer. He would walk back to the nest, hoping she had returned, but it was empty. He was not leaving. He was waiting for his mate to return. He appeared to be in great distress for his mate was missing.
Lin saw something laying in the street and checked it out when she left work, but it was not the female, just some garbage. And yet, the male was out there looking, calling out and waiting for his mate to return.
Did building security know anything?
Are animals any different than humans when it comes to mates and companions? Are humans any different than animals? After all, we humans are really just another species of the animal kingdom on this planet, although a species of a much higher intelligence … you would think. Do we mate for life? Are we monogamous? This Canada Goose story reminded me of another story about mates, love and companionship.
In the late 1980s, when I was the pastor at Lighthouse United Methodist Church, Oregon, Illinois, I also participated in the chaplain program at the Dixon Community Hospital. Because it was a small unit, the hospital partnered with local pastors to provide chaplain services once a month or to be on call in the case of an emergency. It was a wonderful time and meaningful ministry to be there for an individual or family in their time of need. There was one particular visit that has remained burned into my memory to this day.
I stepped into the semi-private room to visit an elderly man in his 80s. He was very upset. After talking for a few minutes, I had it sorted out. He had been married for more than 50 years, and was deeply in love with his wife. Because he was in the hospital, he was not able to visit his wife for she was also in an institution receiving proper care. He said he visited her every day until he was hospitalized. Why was she receiving her own care? She had Alzheimer’s disease for 20 years. Even though she didn’t know who he was, he visited every day for 20 years—every day—and with his hospitalization, he could not visit his mate. It was tearing him up. I visited a while longer. We prayed, and I left. There was nothing more I could do. I was as emotional as he was, visiting with a man who truly loved his wife, missed her profoundly, and wanted to be with her but couldn’t—even though she has not recognized him for 20 years. It’s like someone took away his mate, he was pining for her, and he was in distress.
Lin asked building security if they knew what happened to the goose. They said they called the appropriate authorities, they came and were only able to capture the one—the female. They took her away.
I don’t know how this story ends. At last check, Lin thinks the male is still hanging around, but there are now other geese in the vicinity. It’s hard to tell—they all look alike to us humans. I’d like to think that the authorities relocated the female and she will find her way back to him or he leaves and finds her. Perhaps there is only hope that the pair will find each other, that the heart-strings connecting soul mates will draw them together. That’s what you would hope for mates for life—animal or human, this life or the next.
I have always thought of a muse as being a person—someone who inspires you to do better, to put forth the effort, or help you find that creativity that allows you to weigh anchor and sail forth. I never thought of a muse in terms of gender. But, I am finding otherwise, and experiencing something different.
The New Oxford American Dictionary, 3rd Edition cites Muse as a noun, from Greek and Roman mythology:
each of nine goddesses, the daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne, who preside over the arts and sciences, (each of the Muses and their respective areas of arts and culture are identified)
(muse) a woman or a force personified as a woman, who is the source of inspiration for a creative artist.
My wife inspires me. My friends inspire me from time to time. And surprisingly, I find inspiration and creativity while on the motorcycle. It’s like the creative juices will start to flow while I am riding. Some of my best ideas come while riding. And … some of my best ideas come and go while riding because I didn’t write them down.
While out riding today, a balmy February day, it dawned on me that the motorcycle is my muse. I can’t explain how a machine, which has no gender, is only metal, plastic and rubber, can inspire me, but it’s true. Creativity and inspiration come while motorcycling, as if a muse was speaking softly in my ear.
Oh dear muse, how I long to receive your precious inspiration, to feel the creativity pulsing through my veins, to turn our time together into works of art.
Well … it’s a poetic thought. Who (or what) is your muse?