We debate what kind. Trumpeter or Tundra? Juvenile? Why alone here with the mergansers and mallards? We notice the shape of the beak. The nudge of orange. The grey rolling down the narrow neck and onto her back. Like dirty snow. Or clouded sky. The wonderous wings unfurl and spread every now and again.
I say maybe an injury, the way the swan doesn’t seem able to lift off the water. You say no, its fine, as the bird drifts close. Even the dog watches silent.
The swan is there the next day, and the next. With the other birds. Lingering in the backwaters, close to the cattails . Mergansers, mallards and a heron too. Sometimes we can barely see the blur of white floating. Other times the swan swims close, elegant neck stretched out and down, feeding along the pond’s bottom, or even coming straight at us – curious as we.
Soon we come to expect the swan here, each day, as we walk the winter away. Short days when the woods fill with mist. When alders, hemlocks, and cedar are ghosts of their summer selves. Branches reaching out to greyed sky. When we wait for something unnamed. Spring maybe, to find us. For days to lengthen and lighten. For this cloistered living to unfurl.
What does it matter? Trumpeter or Tundra? The color or shape of a beak? A nudge of orange or not? We watch the white disappear into the reflection of alders or some bit of roiled sky. Ask why? Why this pond? This winter? Why us to witness the day after day ethereal drift? The now and again wonderous lift of wings.