As I write this post I realize that tomorrow is the seventh day of Christmas. Some people say the carol, “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” is one of the worst written, while
others take it quite seriously. It was written in England and is considered a catechism song to help young Catholics learn the tenets of their faith. For instance, they consider 7 Swans A-swimming as the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. Most of us just enjoy the song and as inflation increases, we try to figure out what the list of gifts would cost today. The latest figure I have seen is $107,300.
Getting back to the subject of swans, we all enjoy seeing them with their long graceful, arched necks swimming across glimmering lakes and ponds. Don’t they make you feel nostalgic? They are so quaint and idyllic, pastoral and peaceful. You are probably wondering what got me started on the subject of swans. Just last week, we had opened our garage door and saw two of them coming across our yard, headed for our house. They are residents of a pond at Sweet Valley Village, just a short distance away, but we had never seen them wander away from the water before. Keeping them on ponds here in Pennsylvania is not a situation where you leave them alone and they fend for themselves. This may be the case where water does not freeze over and aquatic food is always available.
Our son, Duane and his wife Annette, owners of Sweet Valley Village, purchased the Royal White Mutes, several years ago, and keeping them has created quite a story. Some swans do survive on their own, but not here in Northeastern PA on a pond that freezes over. The swans decided to wander recently because Duane was holding back on their feed, so they would be easier to catch and place in a pen for the winter. Why is this necessary? When the pond freezes over, the swans have no way of getting away from their predators. They are shy, but are also known for their fierce temperaments, They weigh approximately, forty pounds each and their wings are strong enough to sometimes kill predators like foxes and raccoons. Humans are likely to receive a nasty pecking, so moving them is a rather formidable task.
These two swans are named Fred and Mildred, after Duane’s grandparents, who had constructed the pond over 50 years ago. Last winter, while attempting to catch them,
Duane fell out of a row boat, through the ice and into the pond. The swans probably wondered why he was swimming in such cold water. They remained quite unwilling to be caught so an air pump was installed which kept a small area of the pond from freezing. When a pond ices over, swans are deprived of their only defense, to swim away in open water. The air pump is capable of keeping a fifty foot circle of water free from ice. This year Duane decided to try something different, he purchased a net gun. One of the swans was caught, but was so tangled up in the net, that the net had to be cut away, and still the other swan remained free.
After the net incident, the air pump was brought out again this year. The swans are very hardy and prefer the water to a cage. However, they do have to be fed all winter and the concern for predators is greater also. Seven Swans A-swimming are five too many for this pond. I must tell you, though, last year someone dropped off two ducks to add to the menagerie.
I can’t help but see a resemblance between the swans’ determination to have it their way, and us who think we know better than God how to run our lives. The difference is the swans don’t know better, but we do! I’d love to hear from you. You are the “you” in shirlandyou, so please write.