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  • Writer's pictureCrone

Calm on the surface...

...paddling like FUCK underneath.


That's the philosophy of the swan. You might just be able to make them out on the algae there. There was a family, two white parents and their still downy grey-brown cygnets. So elegant, they look, their necks making that shape that's supposed to be the pure shape of beauty... I read about this in the novel The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst. This shape is the S figure called an 'ogee'. Funny that these animals have this aesthetic perfection.


I don't know much about swans. But I'd been listening to a book that had a nice section on birds flying in formations and as I was walking round the reservoir I watched the geese. They graze in the fields near the lake for a time in a large flock and then groups start flying back to the water. You'd see a V formation of 8 or 11 going back every five minutes or so. I went to look through the fence at the last remaining grazing geese. there were about ten together and another two a little further off. What the book said was that you see a kind of emotional contagion spread through the animals just before they move, like they have to synchronise their vibe and agitation. So, about five were looking a bit twitchy, as though thinking, 'There aren't many of us here now.' Five - and the two on their own - were grazing. Then seven looked twitchy. Then nine of the larger group of ten. Finally, that last goose looked up and at that point, one honked and they all took off together, the ten. As they left, the remaining two looked up, somewhat surprised. They had a quick word with each other and soon after followed their buddies.


It reminded me of watching the horses move in synchrony. the guy in the book was saying how amazing it is that in a V formation each bird's wing beats is perfectly timed and just a split second behind that of the bird in front to maximise the ummmm... air... flight... wind... whatever. But I thought, that's like flying a kite: you can feel when it's right. If you're a horse running next to another horse, you can't feel it, you must sense it.


I like the animals, all of them. Better to think about (though not the essay) than life. In which I am a swan. Except for not the calm on the surface part.

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