On the trip to California August 16, 2008
She squatted lovingly by the side of the pond on the San Francisco Exploratorium grounds. My dear 5-year-old niece on her first trip to California. “All my life I’ve wanted to see the Golden Gate Bridge” she had told us excitedly before getting on the plane. This would be the first visit to see her cousin Cory, whose Bar Mitzvah was soon to be celebrated in a Redwood Grove just outside of Santa Cruz.
How she loved to find small bits of string, ribbon, buttons on the ground, to jump from rock to rock, to run and play. And now at 15 she still loves to climb trees, to name the stars, to explain physics, to tumble, to dive into waters with elegant twists and turns, to be smart, to act smart, to love her family and be loved by us.
And on this day by the pond, I was given a new prayer. It unfolded for me in slow motion, me watching from a ways away under the trees. She didn’t know I was watching, peeking through the branches. Nor do I think she would have cared if she had known. Because on that July day, alongside these calm waters, she was in deep personal quiet conversation with a swan floating delicately on the water.
Her small child fingers clutched rose petals. Holding out these hands, I heard a murmuring in an intimate voice———
“Here swan, here swan, here swan”.
And at that moment I felt enchanted by those small hands, that voice, a rounded silhouette leaning over the edge of the pond reaching ever so slightly towards the white beauty gliding in circles.
“Claire, Claire”. I heard her father call. “We have to go now”.
And thus, the spell was broken. I do not use that word ‘spell’ lightly for this moment. It is an accurate naming of what was created that day when the close and distant sounds, the color of light, the black water, the summer air all united to sing the same song, this prayer that I learned that day——-
“Here swan, here swan, here swan”