Swan Lake.

Swan Lake, book cover. Prague 1970.  Illustrated by Ludmila Jiřincová.
Of all the pictures I found, this one captures the light right now the best. Swan Lake book cover, Prague 1970. Illustrated by Ludmila Jiřincová. 

I am watching swans.

We’re here at the Island cottage to enjoy Thanksgiving. We call our place Sunrise Cottage because it’s on the easternmost side of the island and the house is all window on its east side, so when the sun comes up over Lake Michigan, the house is bathed in gold and white palomino sparkles. There is pecan pie on the counter this morning, there is a turkey brining in the dining room, but it has been snowing through the night; there is no sun.

There is instead a steely, ice crystal sky that blends with Lake Michigan at the horizon so that the whole world is just a big bowl of winter. And I am looking out at all of it from the sun porch, swaddled in jammies and a robe, a down comforter and two quilts piled on me. I’m a soldier this holiday: I took the couch on the porch so that the friends who joined us this year could have their own bedrooms. My seemingly selfless act is really not, though. Even if I have to wear two pairs of socks out here, this is the best room in the house. 

I woke up pre-dawn and made a pot of coffee. As I was drinking it, looking out, the world began to lighten and I sat up in my nest. There were huge white birds out on the water, swimming between the ice floes that had formed already. Were they…? No. They were geese. Surely. They couldn’t be… Mom had gotten up by then and was in the next room, but there are many people still asleep in this house. I called, softly:


“Yes?” she called back, also softly.

“Mama, do we have swans?”

“Yes.” Mom padded onto the porch. “Are they out there?” I nodded and pointed, and we looked out at the white-gray world, at a pair of the devastatingly elegant birds floating along, languidly inserting and re-inserting their necks into the freezing water. Breakfast comes to Door County.

“They look like ice,” I whispered.

“They look like pillowcases,” Mom whispered back.

This Thanksgiving, my family is up here in a snow globe. We’ve got love, victuals, a collectively wicked sense of humor, liquor, and freaking swans. I’m happy. It is my fondest wish that you feel happy today, too.