It was a rough birth. And this being my first turn as goose midwife didn't make it any easier.
On me, that is. I'm pretty sure the goose wasn't feeling my anguish.
As I'm sure most of you know by now, the Contra Costa Times office building in the Walnut Creek Shadelands Business Park has been harboring a Canada goose, her nest of seven eggs and a sometimes cranky, protective gosling daddy.
This is the eighth year that a Canada goose has built her nest atop a loading dock overhang. We're not sure if it's the same goose, or perhaps one of her daughters, but it's definitely a goose with motherhood in mind.
On March 1 every year, a goose arrives, pulls together the redwood tree debris and lines the nest with her down. Over two or three days, she lays eggs, and when the last one has settled into the nest, she starts sitting on them with purpose.
As the rookie Pets and Wildlife columnist, goose-sitting the nest became my responsibility. My colleague Ray Saint Germain set up a camera with the live sunup-to-sundown video feed, and thousands of people from across the country tuned in to watch what at times was as exciting as drying paint.
But still, we watched because there's nothing quite like being a witness to nature.
It takes about 30 days for a goose egg to reach maturity. It took much less time for me to work myself into a state of web-footed panic. Every day, one thought would race through my mind: I know nothing about hatching goslings.
So I started reading and asking questions. I became a little annoying, I'm sure, to the people who kindly answered my questions and to the people who then had to listen to my relaying the newfound knowledge.
I had once delivered a calf when my brother's cow went into labor, and I was the only one around. I took credit, but Lucy the Guernsey did all of the work. A goose is no cow, of course, but I convinced myself that the principal is the same -- I would be more witness than participant.
My biggest worry was missing the action. What if the eggs hatched and I wasn't around? Worse, what if I wasn't around to help escort them to a nearby pond? I had visions of the poor goslings getting mushed in traffic.
I obsessively watched Goose Cam. When I wasn't able to see what I wanted to, I climbed the stairs to the second floor and stood on tip toes to gaze out the window.
For her part, Mother Goose seemed to taunt me. She did things the books and experts said wouldn't happen. It started Wednesday, when the first egg hatched. I watched it break through the shell and emerge dazed and beyond cute, a little, slightly damp ball of yellow fluff.
Then nothing happened. In years past, the eggs hatched one after another until all the fluff balls were huddling beneath their mother's wings within a few hours. But this time, it was about four hours before the next one hatched.
And then nothing.
People emailed and called. What's happening? Are the other eggs going to hatch? Should a rescue party be sent to get the two goslings down before they got bigger and heavier?
As the fear boiled inside me, I tried to calm others. It will be OK, I told them. Mother Goose knows what to do.
And in the end, she did. The goslings jumped and did great. I helped guide them to the nearby pond and breathed a huge sigh of relief as they hopped into the water and peeped their happiness. I peeped a little, too, in my heart.
It was over. Except it's not. A new goose has moved into the abandoned nest. And so it starts again.
Contact Joan Morris at firstname.lastname@example.org; or P.O. Box 8099, Walnut Creek, CA 94596.