Sunday Morning

I never cared much for swans until the day a swan told me I was wrong. It was a cloudy winter morning and I was suffering from a recently broken heart. I sat myself down on a concrete step by Jesus Lock and was staring at the river, feeling the world was just as cold and grey, when a female mute swan hoist herself out from the water and stumped towards me on leathery, in-turned webbed feet and sturdy black legs. I assumed she wanted food. Swans can break an arm with one blow of their wing, I remembered, one of those warnings from childhood that get annealed into adult fight-or-flight responses. Part of me wanted to get up and move further away, but most of me was just too tired. I watched her, her snaky neck, black eye, her blank hauteur. I expected her to stop, but she did not. She walked right up to where I sat on the step, her head towering over mine. Then she turned around to face the river, shifted left, and plonked herself down, her body parallel with my own, so close her wing-feathers were pressed against my thighs. Let no one ever speak of swans as being airy, insubstantial things. I was sitting with something the size of a large dog. And now I was too astonished to be nervous. I didn’t know what to do: I grasped, bewildered, for the correct interspecies social etiquette. She looked at me incuriously, then tucked her head sideways and backwards into her raised coverts, neck curved, and fell fast asleep. We sat there together for ten minutes, until a family came past and a toddler made a beeline for her. She slipped back into the water and ploughed upstream. As I watched her leave something shifted inside me and I began to weep with an emotion I recognised as gratitude. That day was when swans turned into real creatures for me, and it has spurred me since to seek out others.

—  Helen Macdonald, Vesper Flights (Grove Press, August 25, 2020)

Photo: DK’s Swan. Sept 11, 2020. 6:15 am. The Cove, Stamford, CT. Related Swan posts: Swan1


  1. Read this with a tear forming in each eye. Such a quiet understanding, acceptance, and a good example of how we live with wrong prejudices. Have a Happy Sunday. We are at the end of a 3day mini holiday and are returning home in glorious sunshine and full of thankfulness and joy over the beauty of our country and the kindness of our friends.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lovely post, David. Prompted me to buy the book. Thanks 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a stunning encounter. Very, very moving and life-changing

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love that you title the photo “DK’s swan” – I think of her that way too…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This was the first image I saw and the first words I read as I opened my iPad this morning and I’ll just ditto Beth and Kiki on this one.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Why do I feel I’ve read this already somewhere?
    Beautiful read to go with your beautiful shot.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Bonnie Davis says:

    It’s early Sunday Morning.
    I just read this beautiful essay and am crying. Thank you for sharing your magical moments with the swan.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. what a powerful story; if that ever happened to me, I’d keep trying day after day to have the experience repeat itself. Are you planning to have a sit down with your swan?

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I might live the rest of my life now longing for a similar encounter with a Swan.
    And who thinks of Swans as airy or insubstantial. If anyone thinks anything is, they are insubstantial.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    A woman and a beautiful sawn’s beautiful story … Sunday morning smile!!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. In Robin Wall Kimmerer’s book, ‘Braiding Sweetgrass’ she writes, “In the Western tradition there is a recognized hierarchy of beings, with, of course, the human being on top — the pinnacle of evolution, the darling of Creation. But in Native ways of knowing, human people are often referred to as “the younger brothers of Creation.” We say that humans have the least experience with how to live and thus, have more to learn– we must look to our teachers among the other species for guidance.”

    We humans think the spoken word sets us apart from other species. Yet, Helen Macdonald’s swan didn’t need words. She communicated beautifully just by being present and in her silent presence, created connection and healing. So beautiful.

    Your swan has the same mystical ability — look how much you’ve evolved since you began your watchful journey. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  12. How incredibly touching. Thank you for sharing this Dave, along with all your swan photos.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Beautiful moment in nature! 👏

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I love Helen and her avian allies more with every passage. And your photo…the icing on the cake!


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