Foreword: It wasn’t unusual that I’d find, on occasion, corpses and bones belonging to fish, Canada Geese, and mammals on Cayuga Lake’s shore. A senior at Wells College, I’d often stroll the length between the boathouse and the tributary, the same length every few days or every few weeks, throughout the seasons. Finding remains was one of the highlights of my walks.
One low tide, a sunless late-winter afternoon, I came across the aftermath of a slaughter. On the grays stones lay a goose graveyard, a chaotic layout of black feet, dirty bones, detached necks, wide-open rib cages, and masses of weakly fluttering feathers. These geese may have made up a smaller flock, perhaps a dozen in total. It was hard to tell with so many parts scattered about. None of the few intact heads still had the eyes to tell their story. I had an idea from the agape beaks. I didn’t know the names and functions of every bone I surveyed, but I imagined piecing them together to create whole skeletons, guess which would go where. One particularly interesting piece I found was two unsullied wings both still attached to the vertebra. It was as if the predator deftly ripped it off the goose’s body with rough purpose.
Weeks later I walked along the shore to bask in spring’s full warmth. Green grew everywhere. The wind was pleasant, not biting, and the water a vibrant, dazzling deep blue. Water rippled over the area where the goose massacre had occurred. Some hundred feet further down, I found a lone goose corpse near the waterline. It hadn’t been there long. Lying on its side, back against the lake, the goose was completely intact – not a feather or bone out of place. Perfect plumage, well-preened, without a drop of water or bit of dirt. But it no longer had eyes. Spongy, red shallow sockets gazed into nothingness. Fresh crimson. Fresh spongy texture, glittering in the sunlight like the lake. This texture was unfamiliar. I couldn’t figure how it would feel. I could only take it in visually. My brain then transformed the information and sent it to my stomach in the guise of nausea. Even through this I couldn’t stop staring. Of all the things of a dead goose to be disgusted by… I eventually broke away and continued walking, nervous at the thought it may have just died from sickness. Don’t get too close. Remember the eyes.