Saturday, June 13, 2009

The peaceful swans - Regent’s Park

Saturday June 13, 2009:

The rain has cleared. It’s a good day to search for swans. Regent’s Park, our destination is teaming with Londoners out enjoying the sun. We walk around the lake where we are importuned by a wide range of wild fowl, amongst them, white and black swans.

The geese, ducks and woodpigeons are belligerent in their boldness, quarrelling cheerfully, honking, cooing and quacking at each other as they vie for the attention of anyone holding a plastic bag that just might contain food. The swans mostly go about their business only occasionally wandering over to see if the food is up to their great standards.

“Ug”, I grunt, climbing into the pedalo. We’re taking to the water to get closer to the swans. Purposefully we paddle off and I am reminded of ducks and all that furious underwater activity that goes on to get them from A to B. My legs soon begin to hurt but I peddle on gamely until we rock to a stop under ash, elder and alder trees. It is cool in the shade and, although other boaters are noisy, the peace of the hanging branches arches over us.

I am pushing my way through the thick undergrowth. Under foot, the ground is soft and soggy and slightly slimy. The air is pungent with dampness and goose poo. I’m searching for swans. I know they’re here somewhere.

I am hot and sweating by the time I make it to the water’s edge. In a little muddy cove, ringed by hanging trees, sit the swans, shining in the gloom. There are a number of adults with cygnets in varying shapes and sizes. I ease myself down onto the bank under a willow and wait.

The swans ignore me. There are distinct families but, surprisingly, there seems to be quite a bit of cooperation going on, which is unusual as swans can be fierce.

“What is the message of the spirit of the swan?” I ask myself. All is peaceful. All is ordered. I wait and allow the peace to descend. Time moves on.

I am drawn to the water. I step down into its coolness and begin to swim. I glide along and am soon surrounded by swans, two adults and three cygnets. I join the row, just behind the third cygnet. We swim in an orderly line; everyone following the pen with the cob bringing up the rear. I know my place. This is my place. I am safe, I think, paddling speedily after the other cygnets.

The boat rocks gently. Something is flapping and splashing behind me. I sense the swan watching, checking me out, ready to usher me back to the others. I stretch out ears to catch every sound.

“Oh” says my companion, “We’re being circled by a swan, a white swan that seems to be checking us out!” The swan circles the boat completely and then swims off. Another appears and the boat begins to drift away from the bank. Taking this as an invitation, we set to peddling again.

The boat slides out from under the trees. In the full sun, it is really hot. We follow the swan until it slides under The Bridge where we cannot go. WE peddle on round the island.

With a certain amount of huffing and puffing, I climb stiffly out of the boat. On around the lake we walk. A black swan takes a bath. He splashes vigorously, heedless of who gets soaked. Meanwhile across the other side of the lake, geese are quarrelling.

We head for the Rose Garden. Skirting a police officer giving a man clutching an accordion a vigorous dressing-down, we turn into the coolness of the garden. Sweet rose wafts to us on the wind. We stroke and sniff the lovely blooms. Bees hum, feasting on their sweetness. My fingers trace the shapes of the delicate satin petals as they tremble in my hand.

“Oh I forgot there was another lake”, exclaims my companion as we walk alongside the water. Here on the bank, two black swans sit preening themselves, oiling and cleaning each feather carefully and purposefully. My companion stoops and picks up a small black feather. It is soft and delicate in my hand. Silently, I thank the swans and we move on, leaving them to complete their toilette in peace.

I want to sing, I think to myself. I wish I knew a swan song. Perhaps one will come to me before long. Thank you lovely swans, I say to myself as we turn out of the park and back into the busy hubbub of the summer city.

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