Swan Lake


One of the treasures of living in Skagit County, Washington is that the region is the winter home of huge flocks of swans. Tens of thousands of Trumpeter, Mute and Whistler Swans share the fields with even larger numbers of snow geese. It is a spectacular sight and we delighted in the sound of the trumpeter swans flying over our home last winter. Now we are at nearly the opposite corner of the continent and yesterday we took a wonderful walk through an area in Sumpter, South Carolina called Swan Lake Park. Swan Lake began as the private estate and fishing retreat of a wealthy developer. Among the stories of the park is that he tried to landscape with a huge quantity of Japanese iris plants, but the bulbs did not prosper in the swampy ground. After consulting with plant experts, he gave up and ordered his gardeners to dig up the bulbs and throw them away in the lake. The next spring the area burst into colorful bloom and ever since it has produced glorious blooms every year. The swampy area of the lake, dotted with many islands and cypress tress that grow right out of the water proved to be an excellent habitat for swans and birds were imported from all over the world.

Swan Lake is now home to permanent populations of all eight species of swans: Trumpeter, Black Australian,Whistler, Bewick, Royal Mute, Black-Necked, Coscoroba, and Whooper Swans. There are lots of other birds, including ducks and coots, Canadian Geese, Great Blue Herons, Egrets, cormorants, hawks, warblers, woodpeckers, jays, tanagers, and cardinals. The bright red cardinals are especially showy in contrast to the dark colors and black and white markings of many of the birds. Although the swans have been imported and are fed and nurtured within the park, they are free to roam within the area and the waters of the park, along with protected nesting and feeding sites, provide for their needs.

The park has been landscaped with several walking loops and a butterfly garden and a chocolate garden have been added to delight visitors.

Walking along the boardwalks and bridges, under the cypress trees that smelled wonderful with the dripping of recent rain, alongside the black waters filled with many different swans was an incredible experience. It was one of those moments of being reminded that we aren’t in South Dakota and we aren’t in Washington. Although our trip is after the iris have bloomed, there are plenty of blossoms in the park, including flowering trees and bushes.

Our grandson delighted in seeing the swans and although he had to be reminded not to approach too closely to the swans and to refrain from too much splashing in the many puddles, he enjoyed being able to get out and walk along the paths. There are two parts to the gardens, separated by a busy street, but there is a pedestrian overpass that provides easy access to both parts of the 120-acre park.

There are many things that we have seen in our travels that are simply too wonderful to describe in words, and Sawn Lake is one of those places. I took a lot of pictures to remind us of our visit, but they are only reminders. The real beauty of the place is a blend of many different senses. In addition to the sights there are sounds and scents to delight. A special path with braille signs and markers has been developed to allow those who are blind to enjoy the park alongside those of us who can see.

I know that as long as our daughter and her family live in this part of the world, we will take great pleasure in returning to swan lake. It is a wonderful place to take a walk and enjoy the natural world. We visited after an afternoon rain shower and the park was not at all crowded. I’m sure that there are times when the crowds are larger, but even on a summer weekend, there is plenty of space to get away from other people and become immersed in the natural beauty.

Each place that our children have lived has provided us with a wonderful opportunity to travel and to experience things that we would not otherwise have discovered. I’m sure that we would not have found our way to Swan Lake without the incentive of visiting our daughter, son-in-law and grandson. Their family has given us opportunities to explore England, Missouri and Japan before they moved to South Carolina. Her brother has lived in Oregon, North Carolina, and Washington. His moves gave me my first opportunity for a bit multi-thousand mile, cross-continent trip and those trips gave us confidence for the trip we are now experiencing. One of the joys of being parents is that your children travel outside of your normal areas of experience and invite you to expand your world. Visiting them in their homes allows them the opportunity to share the joys of the unique places where they have lived.

The stories of creation that have been treasured for millennia by our people remind us of the times when our people were wanderers, traveling around their known world without a permanent home. As they traveled, sometimes in the bonds of slavery and sometimes in forced exile, they experienced the wider world. In our creation stories there is the recurring theme of the creative power of God and the wonder of creation. There is also a sense of delight. With each day of creation in the first story of Genesis, God looks at what is created and says, “That’s good!” That delight reflected in our most treasured stories and ingrained into our image of God’s creative power, is evident when we take time to look at the wideness of this world. Yesterday’s trip to swan lake was another opportunity to share the great delight of creation and to offer our thanks and praise for the beauty of this world.

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