Over the past several years, we have lived along the Blackstone River on the Cumberland/Lincoln line.
The bike path, officially the Blackstone River Greenway, provides the perfect access to walking along the banks of this newly reclaimed and cleaned up river. The idea that the Blackstone would someday be considered a pleasant place to walk was unimaginable for those of us that grew up nearby in the 60’s and 70’s.
The river was once one of the most polluted waterways in the US, a victim of the industrial revolution.
Now, it is slowly growing cleaner and cleaner by the day. Trout inhabit the waters once again. The river is now host to a variety of fish, waterfowl, turtles, and other assorted creatures.
Which leads me to the story of the Mute Swan. Pictured here
Originating from Europe and Asia, considered an invasive, non-native species, the Department of Environmental Management (DEM) actively seeks out the nests. When they locate any eggs, they shake them to kill the embryos thus preventing the spread of the species.
I am not here to debate that policy, although it is certainly ripe for such a discussion.
Three years ago, while walking along the river, we first observed a nesting pair. Unfamiliar with the species, a little research revealed the story of the Mute Swan, its introduction to the US, and, later, the unfortunate relationship between the birds and DEM.
One of the other things we learned is that Mute Swans mate for life.
Before we became aware of the practice of population control, we anticipated the arrival of newborn hatchlings. They never materialized. I am not sure if it was due to direct interference or natural circumstances.
The following year, the nesting pair was down to one.
All of last year we would walk along the river and see the solitary swan as he/she swam along the shore. About a mile or so north, we encountered another nesting pair, but our nearby resident swan remained solitary.
It is difficult to tell the gender of this solitary bird from a distance, I have no idea if it is male or female. In spite of its solitary situation, the swan continues to inhabit this section of the river.
Yesterday, we enjoyed a walk in the (finally) warming weather. We again encountered the swan, watching as it appeared to be busily working away constructing a nest. When I realized what it was doing, I looked hopefully around for another swan.
While they mate for life, they also will seek another mate in the event of the mate’s death. Perhaps, just perhaps, we would get to see some hatchlings this year.
I was disappointed to find no other swan in the area.
The solitary swan, acting under the imperatives of nature, dutifully constructed a nest that, in all probability, will remain empty.
At first, this seemed a sad situation. The swan compelled by its nature builds a nest despite the reality that unfertilized eggs will not grow.
But as I thought about this, I realized it showed the power of hope. The Swan has no conscious realization of hope. They follow instincts. However, they carry on with life despite the difficulties and obstacles.
Nature compels the swan to be ready in the event a new mate arrives. Prepare for what might happen despite the impenetrability of the future, or the bad things that happened in the past.
Nature does not let the swan despair of the past or fear the future. Nature compels the swan to continue to live, as well as it can, while there is time.
We can learn something from that.
(In the event someone from DEM is reading this, this story is fictitious. There is no nest, no swan, nothing here of interest to you. Really, honestly, nothing.)
One thought on “Life, Inevitability, and Hope”
Joe, very nice reflection. The renewal of the Blackstone is a reminder of the capacity of nature to heal if we get out of the way.