What prompts life’s journeys can be most unexpected. My now one-and-a half-year journey with Carl, the lone mute swan, began on my first viewing of a waterfront home for sale at Lake of the Woods in April of 2008. My husband liked the house, which was in need of extensive updating and repair. I loved the house; I saw tremendous potential in it becoming our home. And then, of course, the added allure of the swan! Did he, too, convey with the house? Each of the three times we visited prior to closing, the swan was right there at the dock—my personal welcoming committee of one—so, naturally, I assumed that he did.
By most accounts, I am a normal woman. Always somewhat of an “animal person,” as a child I brought stray dogs home, and once, even a bunny. I tried to hatch robins’ eggs on the old coal furnace in my grandfather’s cellar year after year. As I began my own family, cats became the pet of choice. I donate to the ASPCA regularly and would most likely get into a car accident to avoid hitting any animal running into the street. But that was the extent of it.
Now, however, I find myself caring for, and worrying about, Carl. My days begin and end with looking for him to confirm his safety. My husband has even lovingly indulged my passion by announcing “Your bird’s here!” when he is the first to notice that Carl is gracing us with his presence. Honored that Carl has “adopted” me, I believe it is my duty to know. I spend time researching information regarding swans and their behavior through the Regal Swan Foundation’s Ask the Swan Specialist forum. I want to learn; I want to understand; I want to participate.
My journey with Carl has been interesting, exciting, and rewarding! The first time he came into my yard and approached while I was sitting on a chair, I panicked. I jumped up, knocking the chair on its side, and ran. Carl didn’t waiver, though. He just sat next to the chair. I finally got the courage to sit in it, and we sat there, side-by-side, for an hour. And so our bond was formed.
I’ll never forget the first time I walked into my family room to see Carl sitting outside the door on the patio, which is now a regular occurrence. Then, even more incredibly, was the fist time I heard-and saw-him knocking on the door, now also a regular occurrence! Or when we first got our boat, how he would escort us out of the cove to the main lake and wait for our return to escort us back to our dock. Or how he followed us out on the lake to watch the fireworks on the 4th of July and stayed with us until it got too crowded. Or how he scrambles into my yard for refuge when the younger, stronger male swans come through the cove. Or how he now is so used to the leaf blower, that he doesn’t even move when my husband blows the leaves around him. Or how me acknowledges me, my husband, and our guests, through his snorts and bleats.
Like many Lake of the Woods residents, I’ve hosted a great deal of company. When I hear from my past guests, each one asks about Carl. I’ve received calls from concerned neighbors to check on him when his behavior seemed unusual. When I asked my friend to care for my cats for a few days while I am out of town, she asked, “What about Carl?” A resident who regularly fishes in “my” cove introduces Carl by name to his guests. Carl is becoming a celebrity in his own right!
As part of this journey, I’ve tried to understand why Carl is important to me, and I initially drew the conclusion that it has something to do with being a nurturer and being needed. My only child, a 21 year old daughter, is away at school. But Carl, as an older, disabled male with challenges, needs me! And I am happy to provide him with a friendly place to rest. Carl has given me the opportunity to truly commune with nature to a degree I could have never imagined and to participate in what the lake has to offer in that sense.
But is it that simple, really? Or does it go much deeper? Will someone be so compassionate to me should I become old, disabled, and/or alone? Will someone provide me a safe harbor? Will someone be there to protect me from others who want to prey on my weaknesses? Will someone be there to assist me in keeping my dignity through my golden years?
Through Carl, I’ve learned that journeys are there to be taken if you open yourself to the possibilities. I’ve learned that caring is contagious. I’ve learned that we are fortunate to live among great people at the lake. I’ve learned that the tides have turned; I am now Carl’s personal welcoming committee of one. To my utter delight, I’ve learned that Carl did convey with the house!
If you stop by to visit, most likely you will find Carl perusing the cove or napping on my beach or in my yard; you will find me immersed in the beauty and wonder of it all!