About My Love for Swans…

Many times I’ve been asked why I named my blog and newspaper column The Simple Swan. I suppose I’ve always been inspired by this elegant bird featured in some of my favorite literature.

My earliest encounter with storybook swans was probably Hans Christian Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling and its powerful message of transformation, acceptance, kindness and love. Who can resist the idea that no matter how awkward and rejected we feel, deep down we are all beautiful swans?

Another favorite novel of mine is E.B. White’s Trumpet of the Swan. It tells the sweet story of a trumpeter swan, Louis (cleverly named for Louis Armstrong), who learns several lessons in his journey first to self-love and eventually to true love with a swan named Serena.

My love for swans was sealed when I was a little girl taking dance lessons. My mother took my sisters and me to a production of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, and I was mesmerized. Ever since, the story of Swan Lake has had a place on my bookshelf.

Seeing real swans in nature only increases their fictional dreaminess for me. With their gracefully elongated necks, strong bodies and regal composure, I’m inspired by their natural poise, beauty and simplicity. They might be paddling like crazy just below the surface, but they always appear to serenely glide through life.

When my own children reached the same age as the eighth graders I taught, I had a daily routine of stopping by a park on the way home from school. For fifteen minutes or so, I would sit in my car and watch the swans peacefully float on the small lake.

In the midst of hectic days blessed by teenagers at work and home, the swans inspired me and reminded me how I wanted to show up in the world as a teacher, parent and human being.

Especially now that I have reached my sixties, swans seem to possess a wise and mature sense of being. They aren’t showy like peacocks or flighty like chickadees. The Simple Swan offers a place to share my passion for writing and for seeking to live with the serenity of a simple swan.