friday 24 april 2015
deep peace of the wave to you, of the flowing water
deep peace of the air to you, ever breathing, still bringing peace
but there was no peace of air or water. there was just about no water at all. there was ice, and snow. there was biting cold, and often a lunatic, homicidal wind. there was death, and frozen tears. flowers thrown onto ice. my one and only friendship with a swan was short, full of heartache, and full of wounds.
but it was also unbelievable, at least to me. the swans in turners trolls are not what you would call friendly to human kind. nor are they mean and totally aloof, but even when curious about us, they keep a certain distance. at least, that had been my experience for thirteen years. never had I seen, nor expected to see, a swan climb up out of the river and plop itself down two feet away from me, waiting for more of the bread and corn it had been eating down on the water-coated river ice. but that’s what happened on a day in late January that changed the shape of my much-scorned, autism-colored world.
he had been working his way up to the great daring move, it seems. on January 26 he led his little flock of swans over to where I was tossing down bread and corn to the ducks and geese. he sampled the food, but the other swans just stared at it as it landed in front of them. stared curiously until some faster duck or goose swooped in to eat it. but he, the one I called Schwan, he ate.
I was so pleased. only twice in 13 years had any swan ever eaten any food I had thrown. a rare and special event for an animal devotee like me. I lingered there with the water birds longer than I’d intended, thinking: savor this, it will most likely never happen again. he’ll decide he doesn’t really like that stuff that the ducks and geese eat, and he’ll never do it again.
but when I went back two days later, he did it again. and this time he swam right in close to shore. he had only two other swans left with him on that day, and they ate a bite or two each, but that’s all. the prince, he kept eating. I was even more pleased. he’d done it two visits in a row. savor this. surely this time is the last.
two days later, it’s January 30th, and back I go to the river to the birds. at this point in time the winter days are still normal. normal for Massachusetts anyway. I am wearing my usual winter clothes, and there is no undue wind, and the temperature is something like 30. no suffering. a common type of January day.
some of the geese and ducks I’m feeding have known me a long time, and routinely come out of the water to me. the swan has seen this, of course, and has figured out that the birds who come up close to me get more food. this bird, I will soon see, is nothing if not a fast learner, an innovator (all animals groups have such members). after two previous meals, it doesn’t surprise me anymore when he swims close in to the bank to get the food. when my legs get tired I sit down in the snow and go on feeding. how many minutes am I sitting there like that (wish I could remember)… maybe it was five. I’m sitting there in the snow tossing food into the water pool that’s bedded by a thick shelf of ice, being grabbed at by certain geese who don’t like to wait their turn, and up out of the water comes the prince, plunks his large body down in the snow two feet in front of me, stretches his neck toward the food in my hand. I feed him, but I do so in a sort of zombie state. I am utterly shocked at what has just happened. after a few minutes his two pals come up too. I give them the food, but again they only eat a bite or two. schwan, on the other hand, eats until there’s nothing left.
and when my food is gone, I’m so happy that some swans came to see me that I build a little snow girl right there on the riverbank, and I don’t care if anyone comes along and sees me doing this thing that is supposedly childish. some of the geese peck at the snow girl to see what she’s all about, and I make repairs. schwan hangs around on the bank watching what I’m doing, and stays until the girl is almost finished before he climbs back down to the water-covered ice.
a swan has come out of the water to eat my food and have a visit. a swan has behaved like a duck or a goose. to someone like me, someone who feels things very deeply and can be stunned into zombie-hood by things that barely faze others, this is a day of nothing less than a miracle. it is has been no less shocking, no less other-worldly than it would be if a star suddenly fell from the sky into my hand.
with great reluctance, turning to look back at the birds about every 30 seconds, I go home.
all photos, graphics, poems and text copyright anne nakis, 2009-2015, unless otherwise stated. all rights reserved.