Mute Swan

null preview

Photo by Mark Seth Lender

Wild Swans


I looked in my heart while the wild swans went over.
And what did I see I had not seen before?
Only a question less or a question more;
Nothing to match the flight of wild birds flying.
Tiresome heart, forever living and dying,
House without air, I leave you and lock your door.
Wild swans, come over the town, come over
The town again, trailing your legs and crying.

—Edna St. Vincent Millay (1882-1950)

Field Note

The Mute Swan does not belong here. They spread from pairs imported from Europe in the late 19th Century. Or maybe not. Lewis (of Lewis and Clark), writing in the expedition's Weather Journal on July 4, 1804, reports he went ashore alone and saw "a great number of young geese and swan." They were at the Kansas/Missouri border near a place the expedition named Independence Creek in honor of the date, and the young nation they had set out to explore. If Lewis saw swans, given the heat and the time of year they could only have been Mute Swans. Earlier that same day others remarked only of geese. Perhaps Lewis was tired. Or maybe he was right. Swans are hard to miss. I remember the first time Mute Swans flew directly over me, seven of them in a perfect V, wings in unison, wingtips whistling. I was standing on the shore of Tisbury Great Pond and after the swans passed I did not move or make a sound for a long time.

Mark Seth Lender