Introduction to episode one: The Goose
Welcome to the first episode of “Dan Lange’s Guide To Secret Walks”.
Learning how to share this story is important to me. Everything about this is an experiment.
The story is derived from years of notebooks, recordings and sketches I’ve made. There’s already a beginning, middle and end - the arc is established, I’m just looking into my best abilities and inclinations to bring it to you in these episodic chunks of words and music.
There are worlds inside the world we see. Our perceptions change, and we see different things illuminated by different internal light. A hike through local woodlands gives us the opportunity to visit places beyond our own imagining.
Look at animals. Watch how your perception shifts when you hear a noise in the woods - as you try to identify the source, as the animal comes into view and can be identified, as you watch familiar and unfamiliar behaviors. A chipmunk or a junco can seem enormous - until you think that you know what they are.
The musical background has been recorded in my home studio, a mix of acoustic instruments and electronic manipulations. Special thanks to my friend Steve Hall for his excellent performance on goose calls.
do you know but ev'ry Bird that cuts the airy way, Is an immense world of
delight, clos'd by your senses five? Wm. Blake, “The Marriage Of
heaven And Hell” 1790
episode one: The Goose
The Witch had been drawn North on that early October Sunday. It was a fine clear day, sweater weather before heavy coat weather.
The forces which had drawn the Witch North that day were part of a push and pull of conflicting feelings, countered by homesickness for her house and family in the land between the lakes, far to the south.
Here no distant hills could be seen. The square and sawtooth waveforms of rooftops under an iron sky slid by the window of the train. Skeins of geese formed and reformed across the sky. Their cries could not be heard over the rattle and throb of the elevated.
She saw into tiny apartments on stories just at the level of the train tracks, some with no blinds or curtains at all to shield the lives within from the casual eyes rolling by a few yards away. On an industrial rooftop, a water tower shaped like a huge, rusty bottle chugged by. Low, brick row houses extended to the horizon, punctuated by steeples and trees, larger buildings, a school, a hospital, a super market.
She'd taken the elevated train to the end of the line and wandered around the terminal, settling on a bench to wait for a bus. She studied a group of pigeons, grey and black and white, foraging beneath the train tracks.
She ate ginger snaps from a black and orange box she took from an enormous handbag. She and several other travelers boarded the bus, she rode in silence past more nearly identical rows of brick houses. Possibly at random, she pulled the signal cable and left the bus. She began walking, seeking open ground.
The various reds and purples of the endless brick were subtler hues of the colors of the maples, oaks and sycamores that lined the streets. From somewhere she smelled burning leaves.
The sidewalk opened up on her left, on a field that ended at a line of trees, bordering on denser woods. Beyond the field and the patch of woods, rows of connected brick houses, about as tall as the trees.
A solitary goose called, unseen for a moment, the winsome sound coming from all around until it was overhead.
Broad wings spread wide as the hind quarters of the goose tucked in as he came to earth on the close grass of the baseball diamond. His black beak pointed briefly at the Witch and then he waddled a few feet away from her, browsing the grass. She could see, in the fine afternoon light, every feather and line as the goose walked and browsed. The deep chest, cloaked by the folded wings seemed just perfect.
The goose, or gander, seemed absorbed by the swath of cut grass before him, full of tiny insects, hopping life, food. He ambled along, absorbed, roughly toward a stand of white birches at edge of the woods. The Witch slowly followed.
In the growing shadow of the trees, there was a rough ring of dark figures. Her eyes baffled for a moment as to scale, she recognized the grouping as seven large ravens surrounding a grey squirrel. The squirrel’s stance was wide, low, head bobbing up and down as he turned, facing all of the ravens at once, as far as was possible.
Without a thought, the goose acted, lowering his dark head and rushing at the circle of ravens. He hissed as he came on and flapped his broad wings, outstretched feathers sweeping the grass. As he reached the circle, he was honking. The ravens merely parted, stepped further apart and gazed with black mocking eyes at the goose. The squirrel had vanished.
The Witch dropped her handbag on the ground, stooped and began to rummage around in the beadwork satchel. She took out a padlock. On it were looped and locked three small pairs of scissors.
With a tiny key she freed the scissors, taking one pair onto the finger and thumb of her right hand. She turned towards the goose and the ravens and gestured with the baby’s fingernail scissors, rounded half circles at the tips, blades curved.
She snipped the air and muttered softly. In lengthening shadows, a soft light seemed to be cast by the grey and brown Canada goose, soft, goose colored light. The Witch stood foursquare to the goose, arms overhead. She sighted along the shears and clipped a piece of the sliver moon just as it rose from behind the trees.
The Goose light became liquid goose as the creature flowed and stretched.
The Witch was fully absorbed by the sight before her, the strong shape of man's body on the grass where the goose had been.
A raven let out an abrupt “Kark”, and another, closer, darted past the witch, landed beside the open top of the handbag. The setting sun glinted off of bright blades as the black bird flew off with a pair of the freed scissors. Freed, the scissors fled the ravens grasp, spinning through the air. Flying, the raven chased the whirling blades. Hiding in tall grass, the squirrel was startled as a moving loop of the scissors strikes him. The full weight of the raven came down fast on the startled squirrel, who shifted fast without letting go the flashing steel. The tiny screw holding the two blades together popped free. One blade was caught fast beneath the raven’s wing, point pressing the black feathered breast. The other loop was caught in the squirrel’s paw. The small shoulders rotated, the bushy tail shot back, away from the raven. The sharp point of the Witch's scissors broke the surface of the raven’s eye. A dreadful low rattling cry came from the injured bird.
The Witch knelt by her creation, wrapping him in her purple cloak. She carefully padlocked her remaining two pair of scissors and placed them in her bag. She led her foundling to the bus stop as the ravens comforted their damaged comrade. The squirrel, carrying half a pair of the witch's scissors, had vanished, beyond the white barked birch trees into the beech and maple woods of Pennypack Park.