Instantly captivated by the sight of this little family of swans, I resolve to observe them for a bit. They are: mommy, daddy, and four babies.
Mommy swan reaches her long neck up along the walls of the embankment, picks bits of leaves off and lets them drop into the water and her little babies gobble them up enthusiastically.
Daddy swan watches me carefully while mommy feeds her babies. He is the protector, the leader, but does nothing else while mommy is engaged with the constant toil of feeding her young. He knows his place, and she knows hers.
In single file with daddy in front and mommy behind, they paddle across to the other side of the Claddagh basin to forage for some more of the greenery that’s stuck to the walls.
Mommy and daddy swan look dirty, which is unusual for swans, but I guess parenthood has resulted in their neglecting themselves a bit.
The babies copy every movement mom makes. Deciding to splash herself a bit to clean her dirty feathers, they instantly do the same. She is the provider of food, but she is also their school teacher. Survival skills are being taught to them with every passing moment.
There is no childcare facility for her to drop her babies off to, and there are none that will care for these babies but mom and dad. All of the swans without young are at the far side of the Claddagh, but mom and dad swan are alone caring for their babies. Only mom and dad stand between the delicate balance of life and death for these little paddlers. Only mom and dad care.
Further up river they paddle and get out of the water. Here mommy cleans herself a bit and the babies again copy her before appearing to have a snooze, but mommy doesn’t rest. She doesn’t have time. She has to wash her feathers and when she’s finished they look a brilliant white with no hint of the muck that was on them when I first saw her.
Before long, the little family are on the move again. Foraging for food is a full-time job, a perpetual struggle for existence, a fight to ensure the babies are nourished and grow so that they can eventually have their own babies to look after.
Daddy swan has a little stretch and lazily follows after his little family unit. Theirs is a journey frightening, inspiring, and magical; it is life, and, if such a thing exists, love.