Swan Song

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Driving to work I saw these Trumpeter Swans on Lake Calhoun. So beautiful. I have a deep connection with Trumpeter Swans and have had many encounters with them, but this is the first time that I’ve seen them on a Minneapolis lake.
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I stopped to linger with them for awhile. And began chanting “OM” to them, as I had done years ago when I had my first interaction with them. On that occasion , after long minutes of just watching, when began I chanting to them, a pair swam toward each other and began their courtship display of facing each other and lowering the heads and trumpeting to each other as they raised their heads in unison. Their duet was spellbinding. They repeated this time after time, with other swans joining in the display. It was such a enthralling experience.
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This morning, after I gave a few intonations of “OM”, a young woman walked up from behind me to see them too. Catching each other’s eyes, she said, “Don’t stop, I won’t think it’s weird if you chant Om!”   Always nice when one encounters a kindred spirit! After exchanging hellos (her name was Shannon) and oohing and aahing about the swans, I then asked her if she’d chant with me. And so we did, it was lovely, once again eliciting a response from the swans. There was no pairing up, but one could see that they were clearly stirred and several of them randomly trumpeted to the skies as we intoned. Chanting with the Swans – so magical.
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About an hour later I drove by again, and they all had their heads tucked under their wings, sleeping as still and silent as floating snow drifts.

Trumpeter Swans were reintroduced to Minnesota beginning in 1978. Since that year the population has gone from zero to about 2,400. A truly amazing success. They nest in shallow lakes and marches quite removed from each other during the summers. But in the winters they flock together. Interestingly, they do not migrate south for the winters, but remain here in what open bodies of water they can find. Trumpeters are the heaviest bird in North America, the largest living waterfowl in the world, and can have wingspans of 8 feet, with one male found to have a wingspan of 10 feet.

The adults are pure white and look utterly angelic when buffeting the air with their wings to slow themselves to land. Add to this their trumpeting, and they seem the very earthly embodiment of these etheric beings that herald glad tidings.
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Swans of course have long been associated with grace and this is a very true characteristic. There is much that one could add about the energy they carry, but I’ll mention just two things.

One, they are extremely powerful birds, and so they embody so well the energy of the graceful use of power.

Second, consider their distinctive long, elegant necks. It’s not they use their elongated necks to reach higher, but to reach lower. They submerge their heads down to the bottom of shallow water to feed on aquatic plants. – “They will also dig into muddy substrate underwater to extract roots and tubers”.  – So they are the perfect symbol for looking deep into one’s watery emotions, or even deeper into the “muddier substrates” of one’s unconscious impulses, to bring consciousness to what is going on beneath the surface, and to draw sustenance from that exercise.

I so love these birds. Such a blessing to encounter them on this icy morning, on a city lake, on a drive to work.

53 thoughts on “Swan Song

    • Thank you, Tania! They were so beautiful and so unexpected, I was just awestruck.

      A bald eagle flew over me as I drove along this same lake yesterday morning. Pretty awesome stuff.

  1. I love swans. Great captures. Swans are surprisingly strong. My friend rescued one once that had a broken wing. When it came time to release it back to its flock, the vet asked her if she wanted to come along. Before she opened the door of the cage he warned her to step well back. Apparently their wings are strong enough that if they hit you with one (accidentally or not) they could cause some serious damage. Luckily, the release went off without a hitch.

  2. What can I say? Absolutely enchanting. I felt as if I was there with you.. The image of you and Shannon chanting OM together – timeless and golden. What an utterly magical experience! As I read along, I truly felt as if I was not only “there” but experiencing the wonderment of it all right along with you.

    Thank you so much for sharing the magic and wonderment.

    Reminds me of a magical meditation I once had at dawn on a small pond at the the Raj in Fairfield, Iowa with a pair of swans. A lovely memory.

  3. What a lovely moment! Thank you for sharing it. I have yet to chant with swans and kindred spirits but I do talk to the crows, I wonder how it would be to “caw” with them. This I think I will try.

  4. An intriguing read. I’ve always thought of swans as gratuitously grumpy, territorial beasts. (My last house was next to a river so I speak from experience.) I wonder, are trumpeter swans more benign?

    • Alas, it’s true — swans are best admired from afar. That is, from a safe distance. I was once bit by a swan in Lusanne, Switzerland. Yowza!! Like a door slamming on my fingers and then staying shut for several painful seconds. (Which seemed like an eternity, of course.) My crime? I had run out of the Petit Buerre biscuits/cookies I had been feeding the swan. Many years later, I met a man at the Raj who was badly bitten by a swan as a child in the US. He still bore the scars on the back of his legs decades later. .

      Swans are indeed staunch advocates of the best “defense” being a good “offense”.

      • There’s not much to say- it was sitting at the foot of my bed, and I was feeding it anise stars and saffron threads. It was living with me because no one else wanted it.

        • short but fascinating dream! Am actually quite struck by the richness and suggestive quality of the dream imagery. Such extravagant foods being fed to such a majestic bird. Whoever or whatever the swan represents, a friend, or an aspect of yourself perhaps, an inner grace that had been rejected or had been unrecognized, by yourself or others, but is really quite beautiful….whatever the swan represents, you have the desire and the capacity to nurture it in profound ways.

  5. OH wow me too! Sometimes on my lunch hour I go to this small pond called Swan lake. There is a group of Swans that live there they just had 4 little babies. It was a pretty big deal. I do love that they showed up in your cold neck of the woods. I love to watch them as well, they are so graceful and peaceful just like you said! You are so cool and share the neatest posts! (✿◠‿◠)

    • Thanks so much, Michelle! So fantastic that you were able to witness them raise their cygnets. That is wonderful. Funny, the farm I grew up on was 5 miles from a huge marsh called Swan Lake.

      • I could not think of what the babies were called. I am fascinated with this little lake and it is right in the middle of town. So wonderful that you grew up close to to a swan lake. Something really awesome about the neighborhood is that every one of the houses has a swan theme in their yards. Kind of like a swan life, that’s kind of really neat!
        Last time I visited there was a black swan by itself. Isn’t that unusual for them to be alone? I thought that was unusual.
        Something else I thought was interesting is when the mom laid her eggs they were huge. The Mom never got up and they are super mean you cannot get very close the male chases you away! I love watching people try to get close! Now the little ones are about medium size. They sure are cute! This made me happy to see them on your blog! (✿◠‿◠)

  6. Such a lovely story! I can only imagine visiting with such beautiful creatures in the dead of winter, hearing their trumpeting, watching their interactions while you chant. A magical experience for certain. Lucky you! Thank you for sharing!

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