I once heard a comedienne say, “It’s easy for penguins to mate for life. After all, it’s not like they’re going to meet a better-looking penguin…” The same is true of geese. The average non-feathered individual would be hard pressed to distinguish one Canada goose from another.
Naturalists tell us that geese mate for life. My bus run made me privy to a mournful and romantic demonstration of lost love .
The morning route carried me down Little Bavaria Road, past a tidy Mennonite farm. A quack of ducks and for a while, two black-footed trumpeter swans, honored me with daily synchronized swimming performances. The swans’ snowy plumage glowed on the dark misty waters of the pond in day’s first light, their unseen powerful webbed feet propelling them onward in an effortless glide around the pond, a symphony in flawless graceful arcs.
One gray morning I saw only one swan, tucked up on the bank, head under its wing. Later that week, I met the farmer’s wife at a local Amish box store and asked about the second swan of the pair. She told me it had disappeared, not even a feather left behind. The Mennonite couple who farmed that land owned a black van, all the shiny chrome and fancy trim either replaced with black acrylic parts or painted black, in the Mennonite tradition of ‘keeping plain.’ The van was kept meticulously clean and waxed, though, no small feat for farmers who lived on a dirt road, and the surface gleamed with the depth of hand-waxed furniture.
The week after the conversation at the Amish store, I saw the remaining swan a hundred yards away from the pond, preening and strutting in front of the van’s broad reflective side panels. I smiled at its vanity. It took a couple of days, seeing the swan posing and vamping before its reflection in the mirror of the van before I realized if I could see the swan’s reflection, so could the swan.
As spring flowers grew blowsy and colts became horses that year, every morning I would see the swan at the van, posturing and peering deep into the black metal mirror. Swans don’t give affidavits, but I am quite sure that the swan was persuaded that its love had been locked into the enchanted mirror of the van by a sorcerer, and that it found the image of its mate’s presence comforting in spirit, however untouchable in the flesh. Or feather.
Every morning, this tribute to devotion brought a lump to my throat. Bus Dwivah