Learning to let go.


rikki gunnar


A frost on the deck damp from yesterday’s rain

And a thin film of ice on the undisturbed pan of water

Where he used to bathe

Emptiness on the cliff

Where he used to stand

Watching the river flow


In this morning of uncertainty

I seek to find solace in the poems of Wendell Berry

Who uses words in ways I may never learn how

But always seek to emulate


Who preaches in calm certainty

Yet what I feel but he does not

For he a man and I a mother

And his practicality is replaced by my passion


Who might tell us it is time to let feral ones fly free

And be at peace knowing

We can never own that which is meant to be wild


Yet I find his distance disturbing

While his words more than I may ever obtain

As I dive into my life heart first

And leave behind a pool of broken waters

Shattered mirrors and forgotten dreams


Learning to let go.

This is not what I was planning on sharing with you today, but I think you should hear this.

Yeah, it’s about the goose.

When he was little he slept in the cat carrier under the kitchen table. Then the dog crate outside the front door.  After two and a half months, you’d think he’d go in by himself at night.  He never did.  He is still a wild animal, he reminds me every day as he rests in shade under the pickup with the dog.  Night before last he fought it.  I had to herd him in.  We sat at the table by the door at dinner and could hear him shuffling about within the box.  Maybe it was the moon, we wondered.  We knew he didn’t want to be there.  But I didn’t want him out with the coyotes and foxes and tourist’s dogs swarming like little snapping turtles.

And then last night he flew off in the moonlight.

It started at dusk when he usually comes to the front door and we lead him to his box.  Instead, he remained off the porch, fussing, chattering, and would not come close to me.  I stepped closer to him and away he flew, off his cliff and down over the Rio Grande in the pale grey evening light.  Fine, I thought as I returned to the cabin, lit candles and the wood cook stove and started dinner for my boys. A few minutes later, guilt took over. A sense of responsibility confused me.  I raised him since he was but a day or so old.  Can I just turn my back as he flies off and say, “Have at it!  Good luck!”  Perhaps I should, but I cannot. I returned to his cliff and called out.  I looked down river and did not see him.  I turned, rejected, back to the house, and there he was behind me.

He lay down on his cliff and it became clear to me.  He was ready to fly.  He was ready to be a big goose now.  He didn’t really need his mother, and he certainly didn’t need his box.

Okay, fine, stay there, I thought.  I smiled and let him be.

Darkness but for the growing moon came and we were at the table having dinner.  He was back on the porch.  I stepped out with him and squatted beside him and he stood there with long neck extended staring out at the big moon, the glowing river. I asked him if he wanted in his box, and he continued to stare.  I returned inside, and then once again, we heard him fidgeting and moments later, the squawking of him flying off.

I heard him this morning as I woke at first light, the time when it’s usually just he and me and the ravens on the cliff that no longer fly off from fear of us and have more than me been the ones to teach Rikki to fly.  But really, it was silent.  No ravens. No happy little chatter.  No honking as he spread his wings. No Rikki.

Surely he will be back, I told myself as the sky became brighter and the ground flooded with fresh sunshine forming little ripples of steam where the frost had just been. Surely he will follow the Rio as a goose does, see his cliff, the bridge, the construction site.  Hear the crows, the dog bark, the power tools and mill under which he’s spent so many hours with the white noise of motors drumming in his ears.

Won’t he?

How wild he showed me he is.  I try to respect and appreciate his choices.  I let him.  I did not hold him back.  I hope not at the expense of his life.

Ten minutes ago, here at the table in the Little Cabin looking through the old weathered windows that look like its raining even when it’s dry, there flies Rikki.

He has flown home.


waiting for me to come home


8 thoughts on “Learning to let go.

  1. We had a similar relationship with a praying mantis on our back deck who stayed with us for 3 months before laying her egg mass and then disappearing after a very difficult birth. Sadly, it was probably a critter who took her. We called her “Sweetie Pie”. She taught us a great deal about life and death and remembrance. She’s in my second memoir “Inside and Outside”.

  2. How can anyone be alive and not see the lessons laid at our feet by the creatures who choose to share space with us?

    A spider somehow lost a leg. A robin is fed by a mate since it can’t fly. A hornet with a wonky wing, a deer wounded in the shoulder, my cat limping with arthritis, your goose or Dick’s praying mantis. They break my heart – and leave me with abundance.

  3. Thank you, Gin for sharing your feelings and thoughts. I had wondered how it would go for you and for Rikki when he was ready to fly on to new adventures. I appreciate your love of wildness and freedom – both for other beings and for yourself.

  4. I find it interesting that nature moves so slowly in some ways and yet so quickly in others. A few months, to get attached and share your space and in a moment, nature calls…and all is different. We are so willing to continue “as things are” but maybe if we paid more attention to the calls (as you do WAY more than most) the changes wouldn’t feel so abrupt and instead would be accepted with open arms.
    Your motherly love vs. your natural knowledge is an interesting juxtaposition, I am sure difficult to live through but marvelous to read your perspective as it happens. As always, thank you for sharing!

  5. As usual your writing, your expressions as you share your stories is wonderful. I love reading about your life’s journey, your thoughts and feelings about it all.
    By the way, I am still reading “The Last of the Living Blue”… reading a little each day, or most days. I really enjoy it as I do your blog posts :-)

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