Trumpeter Swans
    A few weeks ago I took my cross-country skis to Lakelse Lake. It was a beautiful, cold, sunny day; the imposing, exposed lake was alluring. I put on my skis and headed out on the lake. I passed by a cluster of people skating on the rink and a scattering of avid fishermen huddled around their ice holes hoping to snag something for supper. I could see for miles into the open and knew I had another hour before the sun would disappear behind the stately glacial mountains in the distance. I couldn’t believe how, within a fifteen-minute drive from my home, I could be surrounded by such tranquility and splendor. I could imagine no other place I wanted to be. I felt grateful to be where I was right at that moment.
    I glided leisurely along the south shore going just fast enough to keep warm and slow enough to attend to the sights, sounds, and smells. I felt the icy chill of the wind on my face, but tempered by the sun’s radiant heat it felt invigorating. Gliding along the snowmobile track was smooth and easy and before long I was away from the crowds of people and out into the expanse. All I could hear was the sound of the skis scraping along the snowmobile track. My eyes wandered from gazing at the mountains ahead, to gaping in wonder at the ice crystals glimmering on the snow, to the shoreline...where, after about ten minutes into our ski I could see them.
    They were huddled by the shore, about six of them. Friends had told me that the
Trumpeter Swans fly south to Lakelse Lake for the winter but it didn’t become real until that moment. The freshly fallen snow camouflaged the beautiful white coats of the Trumpeter Swans enough that if I were not attentive, I would have missed them. Their majestic beauty and grace brought me to a standstill and I stood in awe, in reverence. In my rapture, I forgot about the dogs and before I had a chance to avert their natural birding instinct, the dogs were off! When the dogs got close enough, the swans took flight and with eternal grace and ease they rose overhead, all the while calling out with their trumpet-like voices.  The world stood still as I heard their deep, brassy voices resonate and as I witnessed the enormous wing span of this most arresting life form. I felt rapturous as I attended to the magnificence and wonder of it all.
    It was hard to believe that not so long ago this magnificent bird was on the verge of extinction. Prior to this moment, would I have even noticed or cared if it went extinct? Probably not. The Trumpeter Swan was not in my realm of existence. I did not know its brilliance prior to this day. Why would I want to save something I knew nothing about? We don’t miss what we don’t know. For so many years, I was caught up in my own problems, my own mind, and had no idea of the far-reaching implications of my - or others - actions. According to Annie Dillard, “of all known forms of life, only about ten percent are still living today” (1974, pg. 138). So many magnificent forms of life that I never even knew about are gone. And, I would argue, in this age of information and individualism, we know little about our diverse community of organisms. And if we do know - from merely an intellectual viewpoint - is that enough to care - to take responsibility - to be able to respond to the cries of our endangered ones? I am glad someone cared enough about the Trumpeter Swan to persevere with intense conservation efforts - in honour of the Trumpeter Swan and all it contributes to the web of life. I am grateful.
“Gratitude is a precursor to delight. To be truly happy is to live in gratitude. In awakened awareness, we feel grateful simply for life itself” (Ingram, 2003, p. 171).