Each year I’ve lived in this house — except for one — I’ve put flowers out on the deck, hanging fuchsia and bright begonias.
The hummingbirds love fuchsia. If you are quiet and patient, you can sit, sip you coffee or lemonade. You can watch the hummingbirds busily drinking from the fuchsia and the red or violet begonias too. Last year, I missed getting some fuchsia.
Several local nurseries have closed and the few that remain only grow a limited number of fuchsia. They take up so much room in the greenhouse, you see, they can only grow a few dozen.
I knew today was the day they would put the fuchsia out for sale.There were 40 at the start of the day. By the time I got there at a little past noon, there were 6 left. I bought two. I’m glad I didn’t wait any longer!
Only one year, the year after I had my bilateral mastectomy, did I put no flowers out. It was less a sign of how sick my body was than how depressed I was emotionally.
This year I vowed, we’d have our garden on the deck.
I kept my word. This year, we have flowers.
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Racket had gotten out of his cage. Nothing unusual about that, except that usually when I let him loose, I’d make sure to put away anything I cared about to avoid having Racket destroy it. It was futile but I felt obliged to try.
Racket, as his name implied, was a charming, noisy Sulpher-Crested Cockatoo. He was the perfect example of why cockatoo owners invented stainless steel perches. Racket could reduce anything made of hardwood to splinters in seconds. He had gone to work on the sofa not long ago … not the upholstery. I think the upholstery wasn’t a sufficient challenge for him. He had gone all out to redo the carved wood frame, perhaps with the intent of correcting the original artist’s errors.
The arm of the sofa nearest his cage was a pile of wood chips and splinters. No evidence of the original design remained. Having completed his work on the sofa, he had refocused his efforts towards acquiring wisdom. He began ingesting the Encyclopedia Britannica, one volume at a time. At this time, he was about half-way through the project. I could see that he’d had a busy morning and had consumed two more volumes.
There wasn’t much I could do about it. I had no where else to put the books. The flat was tiny and there was no storage space. Racket couldn’t spend all his time in a cage. Parrots need freedom, at least an hour or two a day. They are smart birds. They need to interact with the world, with us, to explore and have fun. Racket was doing what Cockatoos do for fun: tearing apart everything on which he could lay his beak.
I wasn’t sure who’d let him out that morning. Probably one of the kids. But he couldn’t stay out all day. I had to go to work and no sane parrot owner would leave their bird loose, unsupervised with no one at home. Or at least no one sane would leave this parrot unsupervised.
I shuddered at the thought of how much damage he could do given an entire day to wreak havoc. It was time to put him back into his house.
“Come on, sweetie,” I cooed. “Time to go home. Mommy’s got to go to work.”
“CAWWWWWWW! SQUAWK!! ACK-ACK-ACK!” (No M’am, I have other plans) he said. Ah those melodious tones.
He was a tame bird, bad habits notwithstanding and would stand on my hand, nibble on my ears. So far he hadn’t taken it into his head to remove my ears, though he had tried to rip an earring out. But tame and obedient are in no way synonymous. He knew I wanted him back in his cage and he clearly didn’t want to go there. I needed a proper bribe or he could easily elude me for hours.
“Come along, baby,” I continued, sotto voce. “Mommy needs to get going and we don’t have all day to hunt wild birdies.”
I offered him my arm and teased him with a piece of watermelon in my other hand. He was ever so fond of fruit. Finally, after trying his birdy best to get the fruit without having to climb up on the arm, he gave in and climbed aboard. Quick as a wink, he was back in his cage, a squishy piece of red fruit dangling from his beak.
I pondered how much worse this would have been if I not have been able to get him in hand and instead, had been left with two just like him safely hidden in a bush. It boggled my mind.
For more than 50 years, I have been nurturing this idea and I have to thank you for giving me an opportunity to tell the world.
Back in my bright college days, I was for the first 2 years, a music major. When my fellow wannabe musicians hung out on the quad on warm sunny days, we would plan projects that were going to make us famous. Symphonies were planned. Great achievements as conductors and composers were spun as glorious dreams, although I don’t know that my class actually produced anyone who really hit the big time. Medium time seems to be as good as we got.
But my dream, my great project, was a full musical comedy based on the story of Leda and the Swan. I thought Broadway because in those days, there were no computer generated graphics to make the impossible real on-screen. Now, I think perhaps Hollywood would be the correct venue for this masterpiece.
In the Greek myth of Leda and the Swan, Zeus, in the form of a swan, seduces, or rapes Leda. Which is never made entirely clear, but I vote for seduction since I have a lot of trouble visualizing rape by a swan. I mean, even as Zeus … swans are not agile except on water. They have trouble with take offs being rather heavy-bodied. Moreover, the lack of hands and arms seems to make rape a rather difficult to manage business. Regardless, Leda becomes pregnant from the experience. She bears Helen and Polydeuces, both children of Zeus. Simultaneously (and I’d like to know how she managed this), she also gives birth to Castor and Clytemnestra who are the offspring of her human husband Tyndareus, King of Sparta.
In the myth, Leda is able to convince her parents and husband that despite all logic or reason, her extraneous pregnancy was not the result of a lover or promiscuous sexual behavior. No, no! Honest to gods (we are in a polytheistic world, remember), really, no kidding, it was Zeus who did it. Not merely was it Zeus, not some guy, but he was in the form of a swan!
I figured there were a couple of potential show-stopping moments with high comedic potential embedded in this.
The first … and perhaps my favorite scene … would have to be the first act closer. In this highly emotional musical extravaganza, Leda pours out her distress in a heart-rending lyric soprano rich with passion. In it, she explains that it really truly was Zeus.
Leda: Even in the form of a swan, I knew it was Zeus. And you all know how much I love birds and feathers, right? I mean … what girl could resist such a gorgeous bird who is, after all, the top God in the Pantheon? No kidding. I wouldn’t lie to you.
Tyndareus, King of Sparta: I want to believe you, but I’m having a few problems with this.
Leda: Trust me, dear. It was Zeus. As a swan. You know how clever he can be.
Later, we all get to see the central event, Leda’s experience. In the carefully choreographed dream sequence, Leda relives the heady romance of the seduction. I’m assuming it was seduction rather than rape. I mean, how big was that swan anyhow? And, uh, some of the technical aspects of the experience make for interesting mental meanderings. How, exactly, did … well … this is a G-rated site, so I won’t get too specific. Suffice to say it would make one heck of a scene on stage. Even better, now that CGI has come of age, with some well done special effects?
Wow, this could have the audience on its feet! I can hear the applause from here. I see the royalties rolling in. I ought to add that depending on which version of the story you read, Leda either gave birth to babies … or eggs.
Eggs open up a whole new set of possibilities. If she birthed eggs, did she have to sit on them until they hatched? As Queen of Sparta, could she order her court attendants sit on the eggs in her place while she performed her royal duties? Did she build a nest? In the palace? Did the issue of this union feel a lifelong need to dive into lakes and ponds? Were they born knowing how to swim?
Inquiring minds want to know! Details, details. Please?
I’m a bit long in the tooth now for writing a full musical comedy, but I freely offer this incredible concept to anyone who feels inclined to flush it out. I think it might just launch more than one career. You think?
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- Prompts for the Promptless – Ep. 11 – Remake! (rarasaur.wordpress.com)
- Leda and the Swan (davidallsopclassics.wordpress.com)
- Leda and the swan….. (womgdesigns.wordpress.com)
- Leda and The Swan (thesparkystarky.wordpress.com)
- W. B. Yeats – ‘Leda and the Swan’ (emilygostage.wordpress.com)
- Ancient Greek (vancecastiell.wordpress.com)
Back at the pond, the important business of nest-building continues. It’s family time on the water where hopefully, Mr. and Mrs. Mute-Swan will take care of business and fill their nest with cygnets. Their babies will become the new generation of swans on Whitins pond.
Later, time enough to go attack those demon geese.
And when the nest building and love-making are done, as the long spring afternoon stretches ahead, Mr. Mute-Swan stretches his wings and heads over to the other side of the pond to harass the Demon Geese who stole his nest. No matter that he has built a new nest and a very fine nest it is.
“Never forgive, never forget” is his motto.
In the assault, note that Mr. Mute-Swan does not actually attack Mr. and Mrs. Canada-Goose directly. Instead, he attacks the nest and its underpinnings. There’s no physical contact between the warring birds. It’s a war of principle, not annihilation.
Perhaps that is one of the differences between “creatures” and “humans.” We actually kill each other for far less worthy reasons than having had our nest stolen. Mostly, animals don’t unless, of course, they are hungry. Or it’s mating season and there’s a SHE to be won. Cherchez la femme, even if you are a bird.
The attack continues.
And again, from another angle … still, with no direct contact.
The geese don’t look all that upset. Perhaps the attack is part of the ritual? And everyone seems to know the rules of the game. They were probably born knowing.
“I think I hear my wife calling,” says Mr. Mute-Swan and he slowly circles the nesting geese one final time. “But I’ll be back. Don’t you think this is over.”
- Battle of the Nests – Chapter 3 (teepee12.com)
- Swans On Our Pond (teepee12.com)
- Mute Swans (Cygnus olor) (ncfscience.wordpress.com)
- A silent ballet for mute swans at Humber Bay (thestar.com)
- Pair of nesting geese takes over a Hunterdon Medical Center parking lot (nj.com)
The daring fait accompli has not been without ramifications, however. The Mute-Swan family has built a new nest in an adjacent curve of the pond, a swampy, shallow area with excellent nearby food sources and a clear 360 degree view of the surrounding area.
Today, we followed Mr. Swan as he patrolled his piece of the pond, keeping a wary and belligerent eye out for The Enemy Geese.
Looking right left, then snaking his head behind, he headed for home by the most indirect route possible.
Garry and I, cameras hanging all over the place followed Mr. Swan’s passage through reeds and swamp grass. He made one brief check to make sure we were not a threat or, alternatively, packing goodies for him. I apologized but had not had the foresight to bring bread. Sorry kids. Next time!
Having ascertained that we were neither a threat nor a source of food, papa Swan proceeds to the nest where he joins Mrs. Swan who is still fixing up her nest and could really use a little help.
Together they enjoy a few cozy moments, rearranging pieces of grass and reeds and weeds and suchlike.
As you can imagine, the Mute-Swans were not happy about this. They stayed in their nest and made evil eyes at the geese until the Canada Geese took flight. Using a widely circuitous flying path, the geese returned to their (stolen) nest
You can run (fly) geese, but you cannot hide! Mr. Mute-Swan because knows where you live because your nest was HIS nest before you snatched it. And Mr. Mute-Swan holds a grudge. If he had shoulders, there would be a very big chip on them.
After the geese flew home to the other end of the pond, mom and dad Mute-Swan spent a some more time snuggling and arranging furnishings.
Were the geese lulled into a false sense of security thinking that Mr. Swan forgave or forgot? Not on your life. As soon as the missus was settled in, Mr. Swan decided it was time to swim next door to harass bad neighbor Canada Geese.
Mr. Swan spots his hated neighbors.
“Aha!” he says in Swan-ese. “Never shall these evil geese know a moment’s peace while I’m on the pond!” Gathering himself together, he gets ready to show those geese a thing or two!
“I’ll show you, nest stealing demon geese!”
It’s going to be a long, hot summer down on Whitins Pond. Very long and hot, hot, hot!
What struck me the most about this was how human the birds’ behavior is. The geese, having already stolen the swans’ nest have no reason to keep bugging the swans. And the big male swan, having built a new nest, had no reason at all to go over to the geese and harass them. He was simply pissed off at the geese and wanted to get a little of his own back. He had clearly no intention or expectation that he would be able to drive the geese away. He just did it to annoy them. Pure revenge.
I didn’t know birds could hold a grudge. I didn’t think water fowl committed acts of vengeance. I didn’t know animals could behave in a way that is as petty as people. I’m betting that although the geese won the battle, they will never know a moment’s peace on Whitins Pond because that big bad Mr. Swan is not going to ever forgive or forget the insult of having his nesting place usurped by a couple of geese.
That’s about as human as it gets. Next thing you know, they’ll be setting up a government and giving tickets for swimming too fast in the channels.