The other day, my two boys and I were riding our canoe out on the pond behind our house, when suddenly a wild goose flew out of the trees only a few yards away from us, surprising us all. It starting honking madly, over and over, and in less than a minute, I began to hear the answering calls of geese somewhere behind us in the air. Their calls grew louder, and finally I turned my head and saw seven geese flying toward us in two groups. They flew over our heads and swooped down onto the water, joining the first one. When I first heard them coming, I wasn’t sure quite what to expect since I feared that the first goose was sounding out an alarm against us. But as we waited on the water and watched them arrive, I soon saw that there was more aggression to be found amongst the geese themselves than there was between the geese and us. One of the geese started attacking the others, lowering its head and stretching out its neck as it shot across the water at any of them that came too close. Once, it even ripped off a clump of feathers from one of the other geese, sending them out into the water. We eventually made our way over to where the feathers were floating, and I picked one up for my oldest son.
Later that day, we came back up to the pond, and I saw the first goose back in the same spot it had been earlier that morning, sitting in the tall grass beneath a few of the trees. It flew off again when I approached it, and I saw what had caused all the ruckus. There in the grass was a small nest with six large goose eggs inside.
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When I saw the goose eggs lying there exposed in the nest, it struck me just how fragile new life in the wild can be. For one thing, I know that there is a very large snapping turtle living in the pond who would have no problem stealing from the nest. I’ve also seen a large banded water snake in that vicinity, and I know there are others that I haven’t seen. There are also plenty of raccoons, and hawks, and owls, and I’ve seen a Blue Heron at the pond on many occasions as well. And that’s just naming a few.
Even if the eggs manage to be protected long enough for the new goslings to emerge, the threats will still remain, and the same can be said for countless other newborn creatures. Honestly, when you think about it, it’s really a miracle that anything survives in the wild. And yet, new life comes year after year.
To bring new life into the world is more than simply an act of preserving one’s own lineage. Bringing new life into the world actually preserves the present life that is already in the world. Through the act of training a newborn, a bridge is built between the past and the present, and it extends into the future beyond what can presently be seen. When a parent pours them-self into their child, they are passing on all that has been passed on to them, and through this, the past is preserved. When a new life comes into the world, that’s exactly what they bring—new life. It’s no wonder the young are held under such close protection. Just as they are precious, so too is the gift that they carry inside them.
Kentucky-based writer Wendell Berry wrote:
Planting trees early in spring,
we make a place for birds to sing
in time to come. How do we know?
They are singing here now.
There is no other guarantee
that singing will ever be.
Just as the seed of a new tree offers the hope of creating a future place where songs can be sung, so too does the seed of a newborn offer the hope that future songs will be sung. And while that hope comes in the smallest of seeds from the humblest of beginnings, it holds the most precious treasure of all—new life.