Nervous and Mellow Swans

Aki and I have returned to the moraine, looking for swans. A little superstitious, and more than willing to indulge in magical thinking, I intend to take the same route to the river eddy where yesterday we saw the swans.               

            Unlike yesterday, there is no sunshine to soften the snow or blue sky to act as a backdrop for the Mendenhall towers and Mt. McGinnis. The top of the towers and mountain are partially obscured by clouds. But the Mendenhall Lake is skiable. I shush along the surface with the little dog in my wake. Careful not to ski too close to open water, I reach the river where the trail snow is still icy from last night’s freeze. 

            What yesterday was a carefree trail softened by sunshine ski is now a tense transit along the running river. When we reach the eddy I look for the trumpeter swans we saw before but spot only mallards. In the patch of open water below the eddy two tundra swans paddle down river. They pivot back in our direct just before reaching the ice edge. Compared to yesterday’s trumpeters, the tundra swans seem edgy. They mutter their “oo oo oo” call and never stop paddlng.

            After watching the nervous tundra swans for a few minutes, I start back down the river. There, maybe five meters from the trail are yesterday’s three trumpeters. They stand on a high spot in the river bottom. One watches us approach as the other two sleep, beaks poked into their wing feathers.

            Do they feel safe, maybe even invulnerable thanks to their five-meter moat? Or are they just too tired from their long migration to care? 

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