Well, here we on New Year's Eve. Bill and I have been by ourselves on Block Island, staying away from germs, having the quietest of all possible holidays, and watching everyone else zoom around. We know how it feels to do that, and we watch from the sidelines with sympathy and bemusement. And a little regret, because we can't be in the thick of things. And with grateful pleasure, as pictures and videos of over-stimulated children come rolling in.
You might think that this would have made a lonely Christmas, and it did, but I also had a lot to think about, specifically in reference to swans. That's my new favorite thing, to go down to Sacchem Pond and watch their lives. I love to watch them. Their whole day is out there in the open, and so it’s easy for me to see what they do, and it gives me a place from which to imagine my way into their lives.
I've been going several times a week and as a result I had so many pictures for you. I'd been cutting back on the number of pictures, leaving out good ones, and I still had so many pictures. Then I learned something, and it's news to me, and I thought I might try to tell you. I decided it was important, at least in this case, to confine myself to pictures from one day. One day's worth of pictures for one post. That's what I realized. Because for one thing, the light is consistent on one day. The other reason is that every time I go to see the swans, I learn something new about their lives. That's enough for me really, I don't change my idea of reality all in one go. So I thought you might like to get to know the swans the way I get to know them - one revelation at a time.
Because over the years I've been changing my mind about wild creatures. I don't think I would have ever put it this way, but I used to think of them as objects... as decorations in the landscape. If I knew anything about them, it was more on the scientific side, like their migration patterns or the color of their eggs. I didn't consider their thoughts or feelings or relationships with each other. I wouldn't have said that they didn't have thoughts or feelings or relationships - it's just that I couldn't imagine it. And even if I was looking, my unaided eyes were not sharp or quick enough to get good information. I could see the briefest moment. I'd forget by the time I got home.
But I can see them now. And while I'll never be able to say I can think like a swan I will say I know more by seeing - by just seeing - by really seeing - than I could have known before.
So you might like to know that on Sacchem Pond there is a favorite rock in the middle of the pond. All the birds on the pond, the ducks, the gulls and the swans, take turns on that rock so that they can groom themselves without disturbance from the two legged creatures on the shore. There is a specific etiquette, which you might notice if you look at the first picture in the series of three up above. The duck is respectfully waiting at a proper distance. The swan is finishing his ablutions, which he completes I might add, in a very specific way. He doesn't rush. It's very important. He's arranging his lovely feathers and spreading oil, making sure that they are nice and waterproof. It's the difference between life and death for him in this cold. It's not a big thing. It's a little oil. It's a little thing, exactly what he needs.
I like to think about it. A teacher once told me that you can never have enough of something you don't need. But I would add to that. I think it's a good thing I can do in the world, to know exactly what I actually need. A little oil on my feathers. I would say that. Not too much and not too little, just what I need.
And then when the swan is done, he will tip himself, chest first, into the water, making way for another, and he'll delicately glide away.
I've got at least two more posts for you on this topic and I'm going to try to get them done in the next week. A little holiday mini-series for you from the Luddy family on the topic of swans.
Happy, happy New Year to you, with love from Bill and me.