Canada geese have been honking all night. Dawn is gray.

I look out the window and see a dozen geese clustered along the edges of the creek. The tide is low. The creek is shallow channels of brackish water, carving their way through low-lying land. The land is plastered with last year’s damp brown grass, and spotted by floes of last winter’s ice.

The geese love the flattened grass. They peck at it, waddle on it, sit in it. Pairs of mallard ducks fly in and float among the geese. The geese ignore them — apparently a duck is below the radar of a goose.

Sunlight reddens the tops of the trees on the far bank of the creek. I cannot tell if the sunlight is red, or the buds of the trees.

Near the house, two blackbirds with orange and yellow epaulets sing, staking their claims for nesting territory. Coming north in March is a guy thing. The females will fly up in a month or so, after the weather is warmer.

Five deer walk along the ice at the edge of the creek, single file, three skippers in the middle, one female leading and another bringing up the rear. Last fall, I saw her nip the heels of a laggard.

More geese fly into the creek and land, and more mallards. I put a load of laundry in the washing machine. We walk the dog. A cardinal sings from the top of the tree in a vacant lot. At our neighbor’s feeder, the chickadees and sparrows are having a party.

We head home. The dog does not want to come inside. The sun goes in. I hang the laundry outside anyway. The breeze lifts a T-shirt. Nature has said it is spring. Surely the laundry will dry by suppertime.

Out in the center of the creek, two dozen buffleheads flash their white heads and chase each other up the creek. They dive, bob up, run across the water, and chase some more. The first turkey vulture of spring soars over the marsh. The crows caw in protest, calling for reinforcements.

A poem by Alice Walker, “Calling all Grand Mothers,” comes to mind,

“I call on all the Grand Mothers of Earth,

and every person who possesses the Grand Mother Spirit

of respect for life and the protection of the young

to rise and lead.”

Behind this first day of spring on the salt marsh, behind the ability of blackbirds to grow bright new feathers in the dark days of winter, behind the ability of does to feed fawns in their bellies when the snow is deep and cold, behind all these is a power I respect.

The power of life, and the awe it inspires, is what I want to protect, for their own sake and for the young.

To respect life, says Alice Walker, and to protect the young, I cannot just watch and wonder. I must rise and lead.

Earth Day is coming up. I must join the celebration, advocate for the salt marsh, hope for victory, and risk the agony of defeat. For I am a Grand Mother, charged with a spirit of respect for life and the protection of the young.

I am a Grand Mother. I have seen nature come back from defeat, and I know I can, too.

All winter, I see the creek frozen and empty, the only life predatory, a young hawk scouting for mice, and a fox prowling in the night.

Suddenly, in a day, I see the creek burst out with birds and ducks.

I am a Grand Mother. I know the creek must be protected. It calms me, encourages me, embraces me, for I am part of the creek as my father and grandfather were before me. The creek is part of me, and my children and grandchildren after me.

The creek and I, and all our children, survive together or not at all.

Susan Gilpin is a resident of Falmouth.