Solitary Goose

Sydney Landon Plum

An encounter with a Canada goose leads the narrator to a better understanding of birds, ponds, the impact of humans on nature, and the way life heals


"This is a careful and insight-filled account of an old and vexing question: how to make sense of the relationship between man and beast. It's also quite a lovely book."
—Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future

"Solitary Goose is a provocative, revelatory meditation on life, both human and wild. While telling the story of caring for a solitary, wounded goose who inhabits a pond near her home, Sydney Plum contemplates not only the resilience and fragility of migratory birds, but also our human place in the world—its separateness from the wild, and all the decisions, inconsistencies, longings, and intentions that separateness entails. Plum’s fine intelligence is evident everywhere in this beautifully written book, as is her passion and warmth."
—Jane Brox, author of Clearing Land: Legacies of the American Farm

"In this delicately balanced story of one goose, Sydney Plum has crafted a thought-provoking essay exploring the complex relationship between humans and the natural world. I highly recommend it."
—David Sibley, author of The Sibley Guide to Birds

“In the tradition of Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, Plum writes lyrical lessons on the life cycle of geese, the mystery of their great migratory patterns, and their amazing adaptability.”
Edgefield Advertiser

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In the fall of 1996 Sydney Plum encountered a solitary Canada goose on a pond near her home in New England. Caring for the animal became a way for her to reconnect with nature. Walks to the pond were daily rituals—reflective times during which Plum thought about the relationships between humans and animals. Mixing memoir with closely observed nature writing, Plum searches for a deeper understanding of what was changed by the experience with the solitary goose she named SG.

In the tradition of Elizabeth Marshall Thomas, Plum writes lyrical lessons on the life cycle of geese, the mystery of their great migratory patterns, and their amazing adaptability. Canada geese were not always so plentiful in the United States, she explains, nor were they always denigrated as “flying carp.” Plum shows how species-management programs reestablished the birds outside their previous range at the same time as golf courses, office parks, and suburban ponds began dotting the countryside, providing them with prime habitats where they were unwanted.

Memories of breaking holes in the ice for SG to escape predators turn Plum’s thoughts toward what it means to nurture. Coming to terms with how SG thinks leads Plum to examine anthropomorphism in nature writing. In contrast to the metaphors through which we commonly view nature, Plum argues that science combined with metaphor is a better way to understand animals. Though Plum’s focus is generously outward toward nature, this book also reveals an inner journey through which, as she describes it, “the enclosures of my human life had been opened. I had become more susceptible to the kindnesses of birds.”

Page count: 152 pp.
Trim size: 5.5 x 8.5


List price: $19.95

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List price: $18.95
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Sydney Landon Plum teaches English and creative writing at the University of Connecticut, Storrs. She is the editor of Coming through the Swamp.