The bright sunshine belied the chill of the late September morning. The surface of the river was a series of ripples in the north-westerly wind. Standing watching the water, a moment transfigured the morning.
From the south, out of the sunlight, came a flight of four swans. The birds moved through the air with an effortless grace, gradually losing height as they approached. Within a second of each other, they landed in the water no more than a few metres apart. They ruffled their feathers into position and assumed their accustomed air of dignity, looking around with an air of superiority that could only be achieved by swans. Perhaps there is some hereditary sense of them having been royal birds, property of the monarch.
Swans seem to have cultivated a sense of indifference to the world around them. Perhaps it derives from a feeling of fearlessness. In the water, they face no predators. Avoiding foxes, they are unthreatened. Other birds may take flight at cries of alarm, the swans will be unmoved.
The indifference of swans to the unease of the world around them seems emblematic of the detachment of nature from the plight of humans. The natural world is without a consciousness that might be disturbed by the stories that fill the media.
The swans might have flown up river and made their elegant landing at any time in the past millennia, and will presumably continue to do so for millennia to come. Barring the entire destruction of the environments they inhabit, the swans will continue to be unworried by human exploits.
In the quietness of a Sunday morning, standing watching the river, there was a sense of the ease with which it would be possible to be entirely unperturbed by the news headlines.
Even if it were possible for swans to be aware of the affairs of the world, they would still assume their attitude of indifference. Awareness of the business of the world would bring with it an awareness of an incapacity to change the course of events.
Watching the swans, there was a sense of powerlessness, a sense that nothing I did would change anything and being perplexed by world affairs was a futile activity.
The swans live in the present moment, experience the beauty of the places in which they live, move as they wish.
Without a threat in the world that has to be faced, the swans are a lesson in detachment.