Saturday, January 7, 2012

On Thin Ice

Juvenile swan, Lake Waban
5 January 2012
colored pencil
I really wondered about this immature swan I saw last week as I walked around Lake Waban at Wellesley College. The southern end of the lake had a thin layer of ice. Swans, coots, mallards and mergansers floated and dabbled in other ice-free corners of the lake. But this swan was stuck out on the ice for some reason and had to walk to open water. He broke through here and there. He slipped this way and that. When he became tired he would settle himself down and waggle his tail to settle his plumage. A few times he gazed at the ice as if to see something underneath. Why was the water hard and cold?

Eventually, he reached the thin edge of the ice and entered the water with a small splash. And everything was fine. No swans rushed over to see if he was alright. The coots continued their antic bobbing and diving. The mallards gossiped and minded their own business. And the mergansers, four females and a showy male, quickly disappeared as mergansers do.

Years ago when my youngest daughter was very little, she put a pea in her nose. Our various attempts to extract it only made it go in deeper and higher. Finally, somewhat embarrassed, we all trooped into the doctor's office and with a chuckle, he removed the pea with a special tool he'd made out of a small piece of wire. As he examined the pea and settled my daughter down from the traumatic experience he paused and said to one and all (and no one in particular) that people had been sticking things in their noses (and other places) since the dawn of time. The pea would eventually shrivel or rot and humanity would survive and maybe learn that peas are better put in one's mouth.

Maybe next winter, there won't be a swan wishing he had a pair of ice skates… I did see a fox once out on the ice once though…

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