I was one of those lucky, though unusual, kids who never had to move growing up. My parents bought their house, five acres out in the scenic countryside of the Niagara Escarpment, a couple years before I was born, and it’s the only home I’ve every really known. I’m now starting to put down roots in the Frontenac region, but making the move from the Toronto area was tough; even during university I never lived far from where I grew up.
My parents have just bought a new house and are now selling their old one. If I think it’s tough for me to move, I imagine it’s ten times harder for my parents. They, too, have always lived in the GTA, and they’ve spent more of their life living at this house than they have elsewhere. Making the decision to move is tough, especially if there isn’t a factor forcing the move, such as a job transfer, and deciding on the timing is tougher. They’ve been talking for a few years about selling the house, since all us girls have grown up and moved out, and things finally culminated with the purchase of this home. Their new place is some 100 km (60 miles) further east than Dan and I, over 400 km (250 miles) east of their old home. If this same move was made in the eastern US, it’d put them in another state. As it is, the Canadian provinces are so big that it doesn’t even take them out of southern Ontario.
My mom asked me to come house-sit for a couple days while she returned to the old house to pick up some more things (such as some plants from her garden while the weather was so balmy) and run a few errands. Also to keep an eye on the cats, who have made the move but are not completely settled in yet. Only one is upstairs keeping me company (currently curled up on my lap), the rest are hiding in the basement. For them, too, the other house was the only one they’d known, and the move has been a little traumatizing, especially for the 10-year-old (although interestingly, the other 10-year-old, and the only female, was the only one to have settled in fairly quickly).
Today was gorgeous weather, especially for November, and I took advantage of it to grab my camera and binoculars and hike out to explore some of the property. The new place has 65 acres, a large jump from the 5 they owned before, and hiking through it all could almost be a day’s undertaking. I only walked a small portion of it; it takes 20 minutes just to walk the kilometer straight to the back property line. Fortunately, a previous owner had cut trails into the woods which makes the going easier. About two-thirds of the property is young successional forest that I estimate to be perhaps 30-40 years old, mostly maple, birch, aspen, and other quick-growing early colonizers. The other third is cleared land. The surrounding region is largely agricultural, and I suspect this property to also have been, several decades ago.
As I stepped out of the house and started making my way back to the edge of the woods, I heard a cacophony of geese coming from the north. Canada Geese aren’t an unusual species by any means, and the sight of small flocks of them flying south is common enough, especially in agricultural areas where they stop over at grain or corn fields and feed on the waste left behind after harvesting. However, this was no small flock. As they gradually came in to view over the tops of the trees to the north, I could see many flocks of varying sizes, easily a dozen or more. Counting them all was tough as they blended in one to another, but counting the individuals was even harder. I figure more than a thousand geese must have passed over while I stood there.
As they started to be lost from sight to the south, I could see a few flocks start circling. I assumed they were coming to roost at a cornfield on the next road over, but they seemed too near for that. Mom had told me about a large pond at the back corner of their property (actually on the neighbouring property, but butting up against theirs). I assumed this was where they’d come to land, so I headed back that way to check it out.
Sure enough, when I reached the pond there were a couple hundred geese on the water. They were quieter than they had been while in the air, but were still making a fair bit of noise. I was impressed with the pond itself. I’m not sure what I’d been expecting, but something a bit more sterile given its history as an old sand pit quarry. It was actually pretty naturalized, with lots of cattails, phragmites, and other emergent vegetation lining the edges. Reeds poked out from shallow areas in the centre. Foraging among the vegetation in one of these spots were five yellowlegs, a very pleasant surprise. No Cackling Geese among the large flock, that I noticed, though it did seem like there were a number of individuals of the smaller Canada subspecies mixed in.
I’d only run off a few shots of the geese before something startled them (perhaps me? Though they hadn’t seemed perturbed when I arrived, and I hadn’t moved) and in a flurry of wings they took off from the water’s surface. One flock circled around, but then joined the rest as they all headed further south. Time to move on; I couldn’t help but think, as I watched them disappear over the horizon, how their travel seemed like a metaphor for my parents’ relocation. They may settle in to a spot to raise their young, but once the nest is empty* they pack the bags and leave, in search of a cozy spot to spend their post-family months.
(*Still metaphorically speaking, of course; young geese may only stay in the nest for the first day after they hatch, after which they trail around after their parents.)