If I had been near a volcano, I would have been convinced that the white shapes ascending into the sky were the prelude of a large scale eruption. But I was in the middle of flat, uncultivated farmland. My first sighting was from a distance, and I could not identify what was happening. It was late afternoon, and the light was coming from a low side angle. Then, all of a sudden, I heard the honking and saw the movement. I could tell it was flapping wings by the thousands.
Usually, when I’m photographing in a new location, I do a little research ahead of time so I know what is happening in the landscape – among the wildlife as well as in the farmland plantings. But I had gone for just one subject, and this was not it. It was already spring, so I had expected the wintering flocks and fly-by migrations to be over. But, much to my surprise, the Snow Geese had not yet headed north for their Arctic Ocean nesting grounds.
North American first nation peoples had long observed the migration patterns of the Snow Geese. They gave them the name Chen Hyperboreus which means “from beyond the north.” They are breathtaking, pure-white birds with black wingtips. During the winter, when they feed in the fields north of Seattle, they take in a lot of iron, so you will find rust colors in the feathers on their heads. This coloration, while beautiful in itself, is just temporary.
The geese fly over and around the gorgeously-planted tulip farms of Skagit County, WA, where some fields are deliberately flooded for the wintering Snow Geese. At night they rest in the waters of Skagit Bay. Although you might not see them at dusk or after dark, you will hear them from a distance. They sound like they are having a party.
As is often the case, I hum or sing Goddess chants to complement what I am photographing. Majik-Norma Joyce’s chant recorded by Libana began to run through my head and across my lips – “We’re a river of birds in migration, a nation of women with wings.” This chant beautifully captures the essence of sisterhood and the momentum of the women’s spirituality movement. When I saw those thousands of birds I knew there was hope for the realignment of the world as women likewise fly together working for peace and justice.
In another field, a stone’s throw away from this particular flock, sat a rusting 1940’s Chevy. As I circled the vehicle each small patch of rust and peeling paint gave way to abstract images that mimicked the colors and dance of the Snow Geese (at least in my seeing). For me these details (see below) also evoked the essence of the movement from one season to another: winter to spring, sleepiness to a highly awakened state, rest to restlessness, quietness to honking laughter! The next celebration begins.