Friday, December 11, 2015

Waterfowl, not foul water

With medium and large local lakes still not ice covered, and local fields not snow covered, I'm not surprised to see large flocks of Canada geese still hanging around. They're most noticeable as they leave for and return from feeding. I am surprised and delighted by the fact that there's more than a dozen trumpeter swans still loafing on several local lakes. Maybe next week's threatened return of Winter will push some or all of the remaining flocks south, maybe not. For now, I'm satisfied with a chance to enjoy and share the beauty and tranquility they bring into my life during this often hectic Christmas season.

late Autumn swans on Carlos Avery
late Autumn swans on Carlos Avery
Photo by J. Harrington

late Autumn swans on Carlos Avery
late Autumn swans on Carlos Avery
Photo by J. Harrington

Aldo Leopold was not know for his poetry, although I find much of his prose to be very poetic. These late season swans and geese put me in mind of one of my favorite quotations from Leopold's A Sand County Almanac:
“There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot. These essays are the delights and dilemmas of one who cannot.” - Aldo Leopold
They also help me realize that the number of bald eagles and Canada geese and sandhill cranes we get to see these days are thanks to the long-term efforts of those who support clean water and wetlands and conservation. Those same  folks who think Minnesota and Minnesotans would be better served by a diversified economy in northern Minnesota and substantial increases in stewardship in the agricultural community. Without clean water, who could hang around?

 Swans

Mary Oliver

They appeared
over the dunes,
they skimmed the trees
and hurried on

to the sea
or some lonely pond
or wherever it is
that swans go,

urgent, immaculate,
the heat of their eyes
staring down
and then away,

the thick spans
of their wings
as bright as snow,
their shoulder-power

echoing
inside my own body.
How could I help but adore them?
How could I help but wish

that one of them might drop
a white feather
that I should have
something in my hand

to tell me
that they were real?
Of course
this was foolish.

What we love, shapely and pure,
is not to be held,
but to be believed in.
And then they vanished, into the unreachable distance.


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