I’d been listening for the sound a while now. Where are you? Will you come back? The long night sky had come to the tundra. The stars are like clouds now. They are close and blink soft greetings from far far away.
Two years ago, I’d been out on my daily stroll to town when I heard the sound of wings coming closer and closer. A great white something hit the snow bank. A plume of flakes nestled around the bird.
It took me a minute to understand what was happening. Birds land gracefully, this one crashed. I walked over the rise to see what this was all about. There, half buried was a snow-white goose or a swan. I don’t know, but it was laying, panting and shaking all over. It laid its head down on it’s back and became still. A soft wheezing came from its beak.
Maybe it’s tired? I picked up the bird and carefully brought it to Tekee, the shaman who lived over the hill. She had an apartment above the garage, the only garage in town. I kicked at the door cause my hands were filled with bird. She opened the door, looked at it and said, “So?”
“So, aren’t you a healer? What’s with you? What do we do?”
I told her what happened and she said, “So just finish it off and enjoy a roast goose for dinner.”
Disgusted and shocked, I turned away and headed home. I thought it was a gift from the goddess. I put the swan down in my backyard under the eave. It was a sunny day but the wind had a bite in it. I ran down to the store and bought some canned sardines and fish cakes. The swan was lying still when I returned but I could feel it’s heart beating under my hands. I held out a sardine and didn’t she open her eyes and look at it. Quicker than sunlight, she snatched the fish in her beak and swallowed. In a few minutes, everything was gone down her long white throat.
She gave a soft coo, stood up straight, fluffing out her feathers and took on a regal pose. She blinked three times, stretched her wings wide three times and settled down. “Tea please.” What! “Tea please.” Her light high tone sounded in my ear. “Are you talking to me?” She just stared at me.
I fixed her a pot of jasmine green tea and brought it to her in a large pail. By gosh, she dank it all down. The swan refreshed, started to tell me all about the long flight from the south. She loved the cold snowy places and darkness of the tundra in winter. She loved to fly in the cold air and feel the icy winds between her feathers. She loved to fly over the frozen lake and see her reflection on the ice. We became friends and I fed her everyday. Her name is Medusine and she is 200 years old.
Every spring, she flies south to spend the warm months at the lake under the mountains. She follows the rivers to her other home. For two years, she has returned to me. There are secrets in her startling sapphire blue eyes. I asked her how can she talk? How come she talks to me?
“Because I like you, and that’s all.”
“Why do you come north for winter?”
”To be with you.”
I pray for her safe return journey every winter. The shaman has become suspicious of what is going on here. Tekee sees the swan flying out during the day and spies on us. Once in a while Tekee is so bold as to creep up and look in the windows. In a flash, Medusine turns herself into a stone of lapis lazuli shaped like a swan. She sits there on the mantel piece ordinary and unnoticed while Tekee makes silly small talk and looks around. Once in a while, one of her feathers stays behind during the transformation. It’s the only sign she has been here.