Lake Mansfield as seen from the boat launch. Photo: Heather Bellow

Alan Chartock: I Publius

It is always amazing that something as unplanned as seeing a solitary goose and getting a kind letter can mean so much.

Every so often, amidst the worry and paranoia we are experiencing during these terrible times of pandemic and the worst president in history, something happens to justify living and to bolster lagging self-confidence. Almost always it takes another person or animal to help. Sometimes that someone has their own set of problems. This week, I was going to write about a lonely goose on beautiful Lake Mansfield. That goose doesn’t have a mate like so many other of the species do.

My goose spends almost all of his time at the Lake Mansfield beach, sometimes on the actual beach, sometimes floating majestically in the water. To me, that goose is a symbol that, amongst all the terror of our times, even if we are alone, we can still have our dignity and rely on ourselves to get through the hardest of times, be they cabin fever or depression. I love and admire the goose and I wish I had just a little more of his character. He just floats along through it all. When I try to physically approach him, he seems to say, “I really don’t trust you but I don’t want to insult you so I will just put myself in the water and float.” I get the feeling that my goose is telling me even more. I think his message is that no matter what happens, you can still have your dignity and your bedrock sense of self. Yes, that’s what my goose has: a real sense of self.

It could be is that my goose is just a goose. We humans, however, have to believe in something greater than ourselves. Some believe in a god who put the goose on the lake. Seems possible to me. Whatever, that majestic goose has the power to fill my heart with joy. He is saying: “Heads up, Alan! No matter how bad things seem to be, we will all go on.” The goose is right. Some will die, some will live, but we have no choice but to do our best and keep on floating.

I tell you all this because just as I was about to spend all my time in this column on the goose, I opened up my email. There was a letter from the very decent Paul Tawczynski, who owns Taft Farms and who has had his own share of problems, but who, like my goose, just keeps on keepin’ on. You know the story: The town closed up the Division Street bridge that was one of the main ways of getting to his wonderful business. Now you have to go the long way around. Still, lots of us do that because it’s worth it. So just when I was feeling down, I got this letter:

“Hello Alan. I just wanted to reach out and say a heartfelt thank you. Not from us but from the entire community both in the Berkshires and the greater community at large. 

These are troubling times for all businesses. Those who are not closed, not knowing when or how to remain open. Those that remain open are trying to protect our customers and staff in an ever-changing world with an ever-present threat to safety. Listening to WAMC and hearing you advocate for support for local businesses means so much to us here. As you know, we have had an extremely rough seven months since the closure of the Division Street Bridge. We hold no grudges, we knew what bad shape it was in. The timing could not have been worse, but neither we nor the town had control over that … we survive … it’s what farmers do. 

Your continued support for ALL local business is what makes WAMC such a valuable part of our community. People turn to you to hear a beacon of truth in a turbulent atmosphere of distrust. Thank you for being there for us. We will continue to be here for you.”

OK, so you get the picture. There is more going on in our existence than we may ever know. There are decent people who step up when others need reinforcement. Maybe a goose is just a goose and maybe Paul just decided to write a kind letter. But it is always amazing that something as unplanned as seeing a solitary goose and getting a kind letter can mean so much. To each of you I say, “Keep on floating.” In the end, we have no choice but to take our solace where we can and I thank all of those who have made such a difference in our lives.