I crouched low at the edge of the shallow water amid a great herd—these largest of the swans, preening and resting in the strong sun of a September afternoon, my arms wrapped around bent knees, barely breathing, holding myself small and still, eye-to-eye with a magnificent white bird.
His tannin-stained neck and head lifted from its nap beneath a broad, white wing to see this stranger among them. And, I, sure that they would take to the open water and leave me watching from the shore, waited for wing beats.
The soft, black, unfeathered skin of his face met a small, dark eye which watched me carefully from above the edge of his smooth, black bill—so perfect for one so white in his bright, reflective world where there is little but water and sky. It seemed I could have touched him, so close he stood with the others, though his long neck was the thickness of my arm, and I was sure the weight behind it would deliver a stern rebuke, should I try.
Glass beads skittered across the plaited feathers of his back.
And he resumed his one-legged nap.
From across the water, wing beats came now—as more of the great birds, their 6-foot wingspans effortlessly setting them down upon the water at my feet, arrived to join the others.
Then all stood looking out over the broad blue blanket.
Only with great reluctance, did I leave them and move on.
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