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The Swans


Spring still hasn’t come this year. We are heading into the end of June and most of us are still wearing leather jackets when we go outside. Each morning I’ve been looking longingly at my summer dresses which I bought with so much hope back in the June. Now it looks as if they might not make their debut at all this summer. The weather is trying our faith this year as we wonder if summer is going to come at all.

For most of us on Greenland Dock, we see the uncooperative weather in the effects off the environment around us. Most of the pirates didn’t even bother to plant seeds this year as it is just now getting warm enough for anything to grow. A few of us have gotten small pre started plug plants o put into our pots but there is a general consensus that growing vegetables in this way is cheating.

Most years two swans dock behind a Dutch barge which is owned by a friend whom I affectionately call ‘the granddaddy of the dock.’ He lives on boat called Grettha which used to be owned by Shell. Once touring the high seas helping to find oil, she’s now docked here in Greenland home to a man who is full of his own ideas about big oil, big government, and big houses. Each year he lays out straw and other forms of natural debris in his lifeboat tied to Grettha’s rudder and the same two swans return to make their nest there and raise a family for the summer.

Except this year after she had laid four eggs she aborted them all, knocking each one into the bleak abyss of the quay.

I don’t think any of us ever knew just how much everyone in the community were watching the annual swan family until this happened. All of the sudden, whenever I got on the clipper or walked into the pub, I would hear about the swan who aborted all of her eggs behind Grettha. Why did she do it? Was it just too cold? Was she going to try again?

Four days later the birds appeared on the other side of the dock building a nest by collecting clothes from an obliging laundry line. She laid three eggs, and as the nest was build on precarious ground, all three eggs ended up in the quay.

At this point the neighbourhood was up in arms.

If that wasn’t enough, she then returned back to the original side of the quay, built yet another nest, laid three more eggs, dumped those in the water, before returning to the second location and using a stick to wedge underneath her fourth nest in hopes that this time it would maintain its stability.

About two days after this development I was on my way into work when I saw three pirates leaning down above the nest and attaching a rope from the side of the cage to the quay wall, the were now making absolutely certain that the mother swan had everything she needed by lowering a bale of straw and grass down to the birds for general use.

“That should do,” one of them said to me, as if I had been in on their secret mission all along. The rugged men then packed up their trailer and motored off down into the dock. Looking at their ripped t-shirts and grimy hands, you never would have guessed that they had just spent the past hour trying to help a graceful swan in whatever way they could.

Nature is frustrating at times. As much as we would like to play god and fix the world the way we think it ought to be, in the greatness of nature’s majesty we are not only feeble we are illiterate. We can’t build a swan’s nest anymore than we can take a mouse out of a fox’s mouth and call it progress. Often times what looks irrational to us in nature is a necessary rebalancing in ways we do not understand. As much as we would like to rush the seasons and send summer our way, it is, of course, completely out of our control. There’s nothing we can do and that is a feeling that scares modern people. And so we start doubting that summer will ever come at all. Maybe the swans won’t find a place to lay their eggs. Maybe we won’t have any flowers blooming this year. Maybe that has to be OK.

Once she settled into her nest and it became clear that she wasn’t going to abort the eggs, the swans continued to be local celebrities. After some teenage thugs decided it would be fun to take a BB gun to the nest, several of the pirates could be seen camping out nearby, looking very ‘alpha male’ to scare away any potential troublemakers. An older couple would shuffle by each day at about the same time and check in on the nest as the weeks passed. And still no ugly ducklings.

Up until a few days ago I had forgotten about the entire swan affair. My own troubles came to a head this spring and it was enough to deal with some of those issues rather than taking on another family from an utterly different genome. Truth be told I am unsure how much my influence help to handle my own problems. As much as we live in a proactive world, one that hates apathy and silences, often all we can do to solve a problem is to wait and watch for the solution to present itself.

Last night I was walking back home from Tesco’s when I bumped into a pirate. Another one of the hardcore lot, he had had just received a noise violation warning the night before and was clearly now suffering the after effects of a night of partying. I smiled and used my imagination at to exactly what he had been up to and how much his head now ached.

“Did you see Athena, one of the baby swans has hatched.” He led me over to the nest. There was a small chick in the water, having just learned how to swim and following its mother intently. Dad was babysitting the other eggs at the nest.

To hold onto hope, when things take longer than we expected them to is challenging. We question whether or not we were right to expect anything good to come in the first place, or if we have been lying to ourselves all along. When there is nothing we can do to change the outcome of a situation, it’s even more frustrating. But in waiting things will come in their own time and we have to know that timing, although it makes certainty seem unattainable, is for the absolute best.

This morning I went outside and was surprised to see sunshine. I decided to leave my jacket at home.

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