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More than a golden egg

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The power and persuasion of the goose

Old Mother Goose. Silly goose. Golden goose. Loose as a goose. Gooseberries and gooseneck squash. The Fox and Goose and all the other great goosily-named British pubs. The goose egg that grew on your head after you whacked it on the trunk. All the times you’ve been a silly goose, or realized your goose was pretty much cooked, or felt covered in goosebumps.

Somewhere between the duck and the swan, both metaphorically and in fact, lies the noble goose, capturing imaginations and anchoring myths and stories for pretty much as long as our collective memory reaches.

In ancient China and ancient Egypt, the goose was considered a messenger between heaven and Earth, undeniably an important job whichever way you look at it. And in ancient Rome, sacred geese were kept around the temple of Juno. They went on to further distinguish themselves by loudly honking or squawking or whatever sound geese make when the Gauls attacked, alerting everyone to get up NOW and fend off the invading marauders. A golden goose was carried through the streets of Rome in special ceremonies after that.

Celts equated the goose with the swan. Bretons equated the goose with the hare and hen (surprisingly, unlike in later years, all were forbidden to be eaten). Caesar, hanging back in Rome while his good soldiers swarmed what now constitutes the British Isles and France, noted this fact along with the curiosity that geese were raised for pets.

You may well think that Whistler’s Carmen Traub is simply carrying on in this tradition by keeping two classic white Ebden geese as pets. Carmen, on the other hand, would point out that her geese’s special status is not so much a tip to tradition as one part accident and two parts bliss.

In the year Carmen has had them, Snorkel and Goggles, as the two feathered sisters are named due to their predilection for water, have quickly claimed far more than their Warholian allotment of 15 minutes of fame. Most of this notoriety has arisen through the regular appearances they’ve put in until recently at the Whistler Farmers’ Market, much to the delight of everyone who happened upon them.

Alas, these market appearances have come to an end. But if someone felt moved to sponsor same, I’m sure they would carry on. For now, however, you’ll have to be content to catch them waddling around their neighbourhood in Emerald Estates, not unsupervised I would hastily add in case loose geese are frowned upon, or being towed in the Goosemobile as Carmen bikes around Green Lake.

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