Skipping Down the Slippery Side of the Slope: Who else has a swan as a neighbor?
Friday, March 25, 2011
The other day I sat at my desk looking over my to-do list and I forgot something. There was an important something, which I was supposed to do, and that something fell out of my head leaving me wondering and useless. Instead of catching the image of the errant something within the reflection of my bedroom window, I saw a white swan floating at the far end of the lake behind our house. It was visible for just a second before it gracefully drifted behind a pool cage.
We live in a preplanned subdivision divided by a meandering line of interconnected man-made ponds. We have waterfowl, birds of prey, grazing birds, and of course the standard sparrow visiting our yard all year long. However, I always thought our lake needed a swan. A beautiful white muted swan.
My neighbors have warned we don’t want swans because they’re messy. However, we do have Muscovy ducks. With my poor eyesight, they kind-of resemble short-necked black swans with vitiligo and a sunburn. It amazes me that such heavy birds can achieve enough loft to make it over the roof line of our house. The one thing I don’t want to add to the to-do list is pressure cleaning a Muscovy splat. I don’t think we can muster up enough PSI.
Hoping to glimpse the top of the lovely bird’s arched head past our neighbor’s screen, I realized there weren’t any birds about the lake. I didn’t hear a single cardinal chirp, or even the coo of a mourning dove. Then I remembered hearing that swans are mean birds, and rather wren like in their ability to chase away their fellow feathered friends. Swans must be tough — even the mockingbirds were mum.
I was charged at the notion of adding a majestic swan to our backyard bird count. Of course, being very nearsighted I once counted a pigeon as a laughing gull. Nonetheless, I was saddened to think a mean swan could chase all the birds away. We might miss the spectacle of a robin winter. Robins are the true snowbirds; it’s astounding to watch a full flock getting tipsy on Brazilian pepper tree berries, (even more astounding than watching a gaggle of human snowbirds try to man a fleet of rental cars while drunk on sunlight).
How mean can one bird be? It would be a travesty — never spotting an elusive king fisher perched on a low branch again. Further, how would we handle the exploding lizard population without the egrets eating them up?
It’s a swan! How many people have a swan? Peacocks maybe, but we could very well have a ballet inspiring swan swimming in the lake behind our house.
I waited at the window.
Alas, my swan remained elusive. Maybe it just dropped in for a quick visit. Perhaps it moved on to the next pond in the subdivision. I waited. Even though my to-do list begged for my attention, as was the important missing entry that I could not for the life of me remember. Yet I waited for the swan. Eventually, I had to turn away from the window and head deeper into my house.
As the day charged into the afternoon, so did the wind as it changed direction leaving its choppy imprint across the surface of the water, tossing dried pepper tree leaves high into the air.
Suddenly, to my amazement, a semi deflated plastic pool toy flew across the lake, tumbled through my yard and bounced against my window. A slender white neck zipped up straight — a painted black eyeball winked at me. Its faded orange beak tapped on the windowpane a few times before it lifted up and flew away, only to get lodged in our neighbor’s chimney — its white wings viciously flapped against the stucco — filling the backyard with an absurd song.
It’s strange how the mind works when skipping down the slippery side of the slope…I remembered the important missing something from the to-do list…I forgot to pick up my new eyeglasses.