I thought I’d missed the long farewell of the geese flying south over the coast — the snow geese passed overhead earlier in October apparently and the sight of them is one of joys of autumn. They stop on Westham Island for a few weeks and we’ve gone there to see them grazing in the shorn fields before they leave again for their winter refuge in the Great Central Valley of California. And the Canada geese, the Black Brants — looking at the maps of their flyways is like looking at a complicated knitting pattern, the lines passing and twisting and carrying one colour through the sky under or over another.
But the other day, driving with Angelica in Victoria, we saw a large skein flying high over Royal Oak where I spent my teen years. We both saw it at the same time and she said what I’ve always felt: “It makes me feel like crying when I see the geese flying south.” Our memories are knitted into the experience of seeing them. I remember riding over the vanished Broadmead meadows on my horse in autumn and seeing geese. I’d call to them, “Goodbye! Goodbye!”, and feel a kind of sorrow as I watched them disappear into cloud or distance. We often hear them when we are putting the garden to bed for winter, their calls bouncing off Mount Hallowell and echoing so that we can’t always tell where they are, and sometimes we miss seeing them completely, though we’ve heard the song of their passing. The other day, I couldn’t tell which geese we were seeing. They were too high and I was driving on the freeway. But I’m sure I could find out by looking at flyway maps and the annotations birders are famous for making.
Autumn brings with it all the ancient rituals, doesn’t it? The putting by of food, the stacking of cut logs in the woodshed, the airing of the winter quilts. Although I quilt (and am busy with the latest salmon quilt, stitching the spirals into the centre panel, and waiting for the moment when I can sew shell buttons onto the spines of the salmon I batiked, then dyed with indigo pigment), I find myself wanting to knit. I am hopeless with the patterns that look like math theorems: 2nd row P1A (5A, 1B, 9A, 6A) 4 times.
But I am slowly learning a little math, in part for an essay I’m working on called “Euclid’s Orchard”, which will have a quilt to accompany it, each piece — essay, quilt — documenting the other, and maybe it’s time to try to decode the knitting charts. I have the skeins to begin:
There might be a way to include the flyway maps in this essay, a way to bring geese into a discussion of genetics and orchards and Pascal’s triangles and a son who knows something about all these things.