I must say that reading E.B. White’s whimsical classic, “The Trumpet of the Swan”, as a young girl did little to prepare me for hearing the real trumpet of a swan for the first time. Up until I got married, I had barely even seen a swan in the wild, let alone heard one. I thought it would be something like the honking of the Canadian geese that always flew over my childhood home in the spring and fall. I had no idea.Then, I got married and moved here—and the swans suddenly became an integral part of our lives. The first spring, we watched them perform their spectacular mating dances on the river outside of the front windows of the little resort cabin we called a temporary home. They showed up at our next home, too, where they nested on the lake our neighbors had access to. We never actually saw them, but the sound of their great beating wings and calls echoed over to us tantalizingly all summer long. And then we moved to our current home, and soon learned, to our great delight, that the little lake our farm bordered was the valiantly defended private nesting grounds of yet another pair of swans.
Now, their arrival every spring has become something to look forward to, something to mark the advent of the season by, and their trumpeting (which, it turns out, is nothing like to the honking of geese—that’s sort of like comparing the sound of a French horn to a car horn) is something we’ve learned to miss when ice locks the lake waters fast and they depart for the winter.
This year they’re back earlier than ever. I first glimpsed them three weeks ago, while it was still February, doing a fly over. Within a few days, I realized that they were coming here daily, camping out on the ice, apparently staking out their territory for the season. They’d leave in the evening, presumably to feed and join other swans on the open water of the river nearby, then return in the morning. At first they were silent, and it was pure chance that I even noticed the two lumps of white far out on the ice, heads tucked under their wings. Then, this weekend, a few other swans decided to come visiting—and I knew it from all the way inside the house, because the deep trumpeting was echoing far and wide across the lake and over the fields and through the trees. I stopped what I was doing and just listened for a few minutes, thrilling to the sound. The silence of winter was over; the trumpeting prelude to the grand symphony of spring had officially begun. It was glorious!
“Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth! Make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise!…With trumpets and sound of cornet make a joyful noise before the Lord, the King!” (Psalm 98:4,6)