Snow geese in a field near Lake Champlain (2010)
Outside Plattsburgh, agitation in a light gray sky. We pass a large stand of trees, and come upon a field nearly covered with white, its dark furrows filled with the stocky bodies of snow geese. Above the cornfield, the geese rise, wheel and settle in groups of hundreds out of a congregation of thousands. It reminds me of something, and I finally realize it's the motion of rice grains as I wash them, my hand swirling the water into a clockwise vortex.
Once I made a journey to Cap Tourmente, on the estuary of the St. Lawrence, the famed staging area for the snow goose migration. Thousands upon thousands of geese stop there every year on their way between the Arctic and their wintering grounds in the Chesapeake. We had timed our trip to coincide with the usual peak of the migration but that year we arrived ahead of the geese, and saw only a dozen or so, far off in the salt marshes, and a few taxidermy specimens in flight in the interpretive building's dioramas.
So this is the largest number of snow geese I've ever seen, and because we're on the highway, we can't stop, can't hear, can't photograph, can only try to commit the sight to memory. On our own journey back north, three days later, J. has his camera on his lap, but the geese have moved on.