Today, I'm on the eastern coast of Virginia. As I'm driving I see a flock of geese hovering above the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel. They're flying in a V-formation. From time to time, they change direction. When they do something interesting happens.

The one who was leading the formation suddenly falls back. Another one in the middle will take the lead and the share of the most potent air currents. As if they sense a change, the other birds adjust to the change in the navigational direction.

“Some might say they're out there on their own, twisting in the wind. But where there's a change in direction, there's likely the realigning of the formation. The ones who have taken the brunt of the wind realign themselves, while others take the lead. It rarely matters which goose leads. It does, however, matter that they're headed in the right direction.”

The bird that was taking the brunt of the wind's force drops back to the middle of the newly formed V, and without a loss in flight speed, the geese move on.

I read where there's a method to this formation. The young and the elderly birds are in the back of the formation. Here, they are shielded from the head-on winds.

Should one become too weak to fly with the formation, however, he's not left to himself. A couple of geese will fall out of formation and fly along with the injured or old bird until it either gets better or dies. The idea of help is that the old bird will get better, not die. But still, the healthy birds are there taking care of the ill ones.

Geese are fascinating to watch and harbingers of the changing seasons. The way they adjust their formation to change directions reminds me of the diversity I see in the upper Southeast.

This morning I was within spitting distance of the Atlantic Ocean, talking with a farmer about the delay of his wheat crop this year. Later in the year, he'll plant cotton in an environment unlike any I've seen in my travels so far. Earlier in the week, I was within a short drive of the Outer Banks. There, I saw a fire. Literally, land fire. It was a swamp before the Army Corps of Engineers drained the land in the 1960s. It is made up of more than 10 percent organic matter. Sort of reminded me of a forest floor. The dark soil is good cotton land.

Both of these farmers have changed direction over the past several years, either through the growing of new crops or new ventures. It's sort of like what I saw this morning through my windshield.

Some might say they're out there on their own, twisting in the wind. But where there's a change in direction, there's likely the realigning of the formation. The ones who have taken the brunt of the wind realign themselves, while others take the lead.

It rarely matters which goose leads. It does, however, matter that they're headed in the right direction.


e-mail: cecil_yancy@intertec.com