The Canada geese in my neighborhood should have migrated south long ago. Evidently, though, nobody told the geese.
Most mornings my dog and I make our way down to a lake near our house just in time to see a few dozen of the big birds splashing down as the sun is just starting to come up. Until a week or so ago, they had nothing but a tiny ice-free hole in the center of the lake to swim in. It didn’t seem to bother them.
All the geese could easily fly to much lovelier points south, but here they stay all through the winter. When a long freeze settles in, those that fit huddle together in the open water and the rest skid onto the ice to while away the frigid day pacing and mulling over whatever thoughts glide through a goose’s mind.
The folks at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology hold that plenty of Canada geese still migrate with the seasons, but they also note that a considerable number opt to stay put these days.
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What changed? Well, with all the golf courses and lawns we take care of year-round providing plenty of food, many flocks have decided things are just too good around here for a goose to consider leaving, even when their favorite spots become ice-bound from time to time.
I know how they feel.
On a weekend last month when my dad mentioned that he was stoking the potbelly stove in my childhood home to fend off temperatures in the 50s out west, I woke up in tent pitched on snow and began steeling myself to crawl out of a cozy sleeping bag into a 7-degree central Kansas morning.
I could have booked a flight to those warmer climes for a visit with my folks that weekend, but things are just too good on the prairie to leave very often.
I was out there in the cold because my older son and some of the scouts from his troop needed a lift to a campout, where thousands of boys were converging to trade knives, old toys, antlers and other knickknacks.
The fun of haggling absorbed them so completely that just about the only sign they gave of being aware of the weather was their speed in getting to the bottom of the big box of hand warmers the adults set out for them.
They didn’t even seem to notice that by volunteering to do all the cooking for the weekend, we adult leaders had created the perfect excuse to huddle around propane burners in a cozy kitchen tent while they chatted and strolled around the frosty grounds.
When everyone finally piled into warm cars for the long drive back home, the boys were bubbling over with stories of good trades and campout adventures, and not once did I hear a wish that they’d spent the weekend anywhere other than the frozen prairie.
I remember when I used to pull on a scarf and gloves when temperatures dropped down to the 50s like my dad still does. Back then, I wondered why anyone would ever choose to live someplace that regularly saw ice and snow.
Watching the geese gather at the mostly thawed lake early the other morning, I got it.
It’s not the weather that matters; it’s the company. And around here that company’s too good to fly away, even when we find ourselves ice-bound.
Richard Espinoza is a former editor of the Johnson County Neighborhood News. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.