This last weekend, I had a conversation with a swan. Okay, so it was a one-sided conversation, but the swan appeared to be listening. I was on a bay with some friends and a swan family came to within 12 feet of me. As they floated nearby, I had the impression the male wanted to show off his cygnets. Most of the young were gray balls of fluff, although two were white.
Now, I don’t know how many of you have been around swans, but they are much bigger than geese and a bit intimidating. They will drive other animals out of their territory by coming up out of the water and flapping wings that can be ten feet across. Later that day, we heard the distinctive whoosh of the wings from inside the cottage and I was glad I hadn’t done anything to annoy our early afternoon visitor.
This wasn’t the first time I’d seen swans. I was fortunate enough to visit Bruge, Belgium where the regal birds are a reminder of an unfortunate decision. In fourteen eighty-eight the citizens of Bruge put to death Pieter Lanchals, a town administrator for Maximilian of Austria. When the king discovered what they’d done, he ordered the people to care for the swans on the lakes and canals for eternity. The punishment was fitting, as a swan was a part of Pieter’s coat of arms.
The swans have become a wonderful element of Bruge, along with the lovely city center, which has remained basically unchanged since the sixteenth century. When I visited, the downtown was alive with wedding parties. It’s a favorite picture hot-spot with its stone buildings and canals, as well as home to an amazing bobbin lace industry.
This fairy tale location is perfect for swans. And the majestic birds are the center of many a tale, from stories such as the Irish “Children of Lir” to Hans Christen Andersen’s “The Ugly Duckling.” Some of the legends have even been the basis for phrases we use often. A swan’s song comes from the belief that a mute swan will sing a beautiful song at its death.
Mmmm, The Ugly Duckling. I haven’t written a romance with that theme. Maybe it’s time. After all, swans understand soulmates, they pair bond for life.
To learn more about me and the stories I like to tell, visit www.Dawn-Ireland.com. My newest release, Highland Yearning is available for pre-order. I had fun writing this light-hearted time travel set in 1775.