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Not Art Nbr 2: His Phantom Foot

When the birds
come to breakfast
some have lost
legs or feet
to the world,
and I give those more,
their lives
being difficult enough,
but I never
see the ones who have
lost wings.

470 Fidelity Agape (excerpt)

William Mealer
Alethea At Aphelion

© Babsje (

One-legged Canada Goose

Five kayak outings in a row, the young Canada Goose has followed along as I ply the shores of the lake. He hadn’t joined the other gaggles of geese as they readied for migration south, and remained behind after their departure. Instead, he could be found in the company of the ducks in various coves or near the gulls congregating along the boat launch.

As the weeks drew on, several waves of geese migrating from farther north would briefly stop over at the lake – a way station on their route south – and the young goose would join along the fringe of the newcomers, but I noticed he always remained behind when they, too, headed south.

It was then, as autumn gave way to winter, and most of the ducks had migrated, that one day I noticed the young goose seemed to be following me about the lake.

The next day, I came across the goose near one of tunnels where the Great Blue Herons perch, pulling up greens from along the shore. By then, much of the vegetation had dried to straw, but that patch was still a vibrant green, and most days I would sight the goose there on my way to the north. And most days from then on, he would follow along behind the blue kayak, from middle lake into north lake, and back, then east into the shallow cove favored by the herons.

The weather here on Christmas was unexectedly warm for Massachusetts in December, near 60 degrees, and my gift to myself was an hour in the kayak, tucked deep in the slender cove, drinking hot coffee and eating a friend’s home-made cookies. Any my companion there? The young goose – delightful company.

Yesterday was again warm, and so once again I headed out on the water. Once again, the young goose was near that patch of greens. Once again, he followed me, at times paddling behind Blue Boat, at others circling around alongsides to port or starboard, at others pulling out ahead of my bow.

He seemed healthy enough, despite being an unusually solitary goose. His chest was plump, feathers abundant and glossy, eyes clear, tongue pink. The only thing amiss seemed to be a shallow, silver-dollar-sized wound at the back of his head where it joins the neck, but the short feathers there looked like they were growing back in just fine.

So why hadn’t he migrated with the others? I assumed he couldn’t fly, although I had seen him stretch out his wings once when he accidentally came to close to the kayak. It was only for a moment, and so my glimpse of the wings was brief, but I couldn’t see anything obvioulsy wrong with either wing.

It was a mystery, his flightlessness.

© Babsje (

Canada Goose

At the end of the day yesterday, the young goose followed me back to the boathouse, and watched from the shallows as I beached the kayak. I wondered if he would flee in fear were I to stand up full height on shore, and so I slouched down to look smaller as I clambered out of the boat. Apparently that worked, and he simply paddled about in small circles, watching me all the while.

Then he started to preen, just like any other goose, tucking his head under first one wing, the the others, craning his neck over his should to reach his back feathers, nibbling at his tail.

And when he stood up, it hit me – the reason for his flightlessness. He stood there gracefully on his left leg, the stump of his right wavering slightly as he regained his balance, and settled in preening on one leg.

The photos in this post are clearly not “art” (they were taken with my phone). And even though they are not art, there is something curious about them. Look closely at the top photo here, do you see what I see floating on the surface of the water below the stump of his right leg? Doesn’t that reflected shape look like the reflection of an intact goose’s foot? His phantom foot?

It is remarkable how nimble he has been in paddling after me for miles all over the lake, how agile he looks standing on one leg preening, how healthy he seems to be apart from his missing foot. How endearing he is.

And even though these photos aren’t art, the young Canada Goose is.


This week’s photo challenge is Warmth. Thanks to Ben H and WordPress for this topic.

Thanks to Paula for hosting her Black & White Sunday challenge.

Thanks to Cee for hosting her Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Circles and Curves.

Thanks also to Leanne Cole and Laura Mackey for hosting the Monochrome Madness challenge.

A selection of my heron and flower photos is now available at the Five Crows Gallery in Natick, MA. Drop in and see the work of the many wonderfully creative artists who show there when you’re in the area.

Five Crows is on FaceBook. To give the gallery a visit, please click here.

Remember: Walk softly and carry a long lens.™

The Tao of Feathers™

© 2014 Babsje. (

Great Blue Heron, Kayaking

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