So, there I was on the job on a recent summer afternoon, waiting to interview someone outside the Cos Cob Library, admiring the flowers in Strickland Brook Park, when they sailed into view -- a family of swans.
A mute swan family is a wondrous sight these days, despite the fact that they have become waterfowl non gratis in our state. They're not native, they're too plentiful and they overgraze the underwater vegetation -- robbing food from our native aquatic birds, say the haters.
I, on the other hand, was thrilled to see the five swans surge through the Strickland Brook. For me, their sight was beautiful to behold. So, I started to speak to the swans now as I had so many years ago when I had my own mute swans.
"So pretty, so beautiful, so pretty, so beautiful," I called out to them.
They swam in closer, the cob (or male) leading, the pen (or female) following.
And I thought, as I have so many times whenever I see swans that are wild, could one of these parents be the offspring of my swans?
Yes, my swans had their wings pinioned, or clipped, but I didn't have the heart to clip the wings of their only two offspring, so one day, when the two had grown, they left me high and dry.
Swans are said to live up to 20 years if they're lucky, and so the possibility -- according to my swan- owning history -- is that those two offspring could still be reproducing. And so, I called to them in that call of old: "So pretty, so beautiful, so pretty, so beautiful."
Something extraordinary happened. The cob suddenly climbed up the bank of the brook and stood before me. His mate stayed in the water and began hissing loudly at me. But the cob, standing nearly as tall as I was, simply stood and eyed me.
Now I am fully aware of how aggressive swans can be when protecting their nesting territories and their young. They are, after all, our largest flying birds.
Could he be begging? But I had only a reporter's pad in my hand.
"I have never seen a swan come out of the water like that," said a voice behind me. It was my appointed interviewee, a local who knows this territory well.
"It's astonishing," she said. "How he's looking so hard at you."
As the cob and I eyed each other, I told the woman of my long-lost swan offspring.
"It's got to be one of yours," she said, "This is just too extraordinary."
Then I thought of that half sandwich I had in the car. Surely I should befriend this responsive cob. Could I believe this swan once was mine?
Returning with the sandwich, the swan moving toward me, I tore off a piece of bread and handed it out. Part of me knew the no-nos of feeding a wild thing. But I was intent on bonding with this forthcoming father swan.
Then the trouble began. The pen wanted in on the act, with both swans now fiercely fixated on the half sandwich. Fiercely telling to them to back off, I quickly extricated myself to find a nearby rubbish bin to throw out the rest of the sandwich.
Beginning my interview, now standing at a safe distance, we watched as the swans made their slow way back into the brook.
"I've just never seen a swan come out of the water like that," the subject of my interview said, shaking her head. But I argued it had to be about food. "The swan was just begging," I said.
But I do wonder . . .
Postscript: I have since learned that these Strickland Brook swans are bibliophiles! Kathy Mullen, a librarian at the Cos Cob Library, says they have attempted to enter the library. Well, I did read to my swans occasionally.