The Saga of the Frozen Swans
Updated: Feb 28
I love my mornings. I am a bit addicted to them. I know I need them physically and I also need them mentally. I talk to myself. I have conversations, I attempt to solve the problems of my world. I may not often provide the answers I need but at least I have some sparkling wit and repartee with myself for 60 minutes every morning. As I am a creature of habit, at home I walked the same route every morning. Part of my obsession is walking for 60 minutes every day. So once I have a route mapped out that I like and I know it is 60 minutes it becomes part of my morning ritual.
In Providence without a doubt my favourite walk is by the river. With a dwindling amount of time left, I am trying to mix it up a bit by heading in different directions, but every other day I always find myself drawn back to the river. This week the river became the scene of a crisis averted. I know I talk about being Lara Croft in my head, well this morning I became more like Diego one of the fiercest animal rescuers in the world. It was two days after the blizzard and it was cold. I don’t really feel the cold in the mornings, in fact I love the cold. The colder it gets and the happier I get, the more I worry about how I will actually cope in Cambodia in 40 degree temperatures. Anyway I digress. The cold has not beaten me yet, the only thing that tends to keep me inside is the rain. So it was cold, in the vicinity of about -13 degrees (celsius). The sky was glorious so I headed to the river.
The river was absolutely stunning. It had completely frozen over which is something I never expected it would do and something I did not think was possible. This frozen river combined with one of the most spectacular dawn skies made me feel like I was in another one of those movies that live in my head. It was so beautiful it almost made me cry. I continued walking rather than weeping and I came across two great big lumps on the river that I thought were snowmen. Don’t ask me to attempt to explain that rationale, it was just the first thing I thought. I was walking past, when one of the snowmen on the river raised its head to look at me and I realised the two lumps were swans.
The swan looked at me for a moment then tucked its head pitifully back under itself. As I looked at the frozen river my heart came into my mouth and I felt sick to the stomach. They were frozen. The fucking swans were frozen. I immediately put away my camera as the thought of taking a photo of an animal in distress is something I could not do. I am always reminded of those arseholes who passed around a baby dolphin to get a selfie until it died. Animals break my heart and now I was faced by two incredible swans that were frozen solid in the river. I imagined that the swan had been looking at me pathetically begging for help. I saw the trail of ice behind them and had visions in my head of them swimming for hours in a wild effort to stay one paddle ahead of the river that was freezing all around them. The soundtrack that filled my brain was “I got to break free” and Queen was performing behind me. But alas the river continued to freeze as you can not stop nature and eventually the swans just stopped, frozen and bowed their weary heads. They had fought a good fight, but the river had won.
I literally did not know what to do. What would Diego do? I took one step towards the river but as I started to slide, I knew that me landing in the freezing river was a recipe for disaster. So I thought if I could wake them up and give them hope they might break free. So I clapped my hands and I yelled out loud screams of encouragement to wake them up. I am sure if anyone had seen me they would have thought I was some sort of crazy bitch yelling at two swans. Naturally no-one saw me because who would be bat shit crazy enough to be out walking in minus 13 degree temperatures?
I then resorted to breaking off branches of trees I could find and throwing them around the swans in an attempt to break the ice so they could swim and fly away to safety. I was on the verge of tears as I asked of the swans, “why in god’s name didn’t you hibernate?” I decided I was achieving nothing and constantly risking sliding into the river so I headed home to rally some wildlife rescuing forces. I stopped the first man I came across and asked him who I should call to assist some swans frozen in the river. He looked at me strangely and said, “Excuse me?” I told him that there were swans frozen in the river. He told me that he had never heard of anything like that before. I told him that neither had I and that where I come from you don’t really have to deal with frozen swans. He told me that it was obvious that I was not from around here. We nodded in mutual agreement and he suggested animal control.
I then sped walk home so I could alert the authorities. Animal control did not open until 10am. I then found the number of a Wildlife Animal Rescue operation in Rhode Island. The main office was closed but on the recorded message there was a number for birds, ducks, geese and swans. So I rang that number. My conversation went a little bit like this.
Lara the wildlife rescuer: “Hi, sorry to be a pain but I need some assistance as I think there are swans frozen in the river.” Wildlife person: “Oh. That would be highly unlikely” Lara the wildlife rescuer: “That’s what I thought too, but there appear to be two swans frozen in the river and I think they are going to die.” Wildlife person: “I don’t think they will die and they are probably not frozen.” Lara the wildlife rescuer: “They looked frozen.” Wildlife person: “They were more probably asleep on the ice, that’s what they do.”
Lara the wildlife rescuer: “I really don’t think these were asleep, I woke them up and they could not move. I think they are frozen and can’t move.” (Voice tragically breaking.) Wildlife person: “Where are you from?” Lara the wildlife rescuer: “I am ringing from Providence.” Wildlife person: “No, where are you from?” Lara the wildlife rescuer: “Australia.” Wildlife person: “I see.” Loaded and heavy silence. Lara the wildlife rescuer: “So what do I do if they are frozen?” Wildlife person: (in the tones one reserves when speaking to a 3 year old), “How about you go back in a couple of hours and if they are still frozen in the river, you ring us back?” Lara the wildlife rescuer: “That sounds like a long time for frozen swans. But ok I will do that. Thank you.” Conversation over and out.
I got Robert to drive me down to the river at 10 am. Suffice to say my swans were no longer frozen in the river. I realised now that when they were looking at me pathetically to save them from freezing to death they were actually looking at me disdainfully and asking me in swan talk to stop yelling at them like a fucking crazy person. Life is never dull on a frozen river. Thank god a major swan crisis was averted.