You know the story of the girl who had twelve brothers? Their stepmother wanted to get rid of the brothers so her own son would inherit the family fortune, so she turned the brother to swans. The girl discovered the treachery and traveled to the Fairy Queen where she learned how to break the spell–she had to harvest and dry, spin and weave nettles into cloth, and then sew the cloth into shirts. After many terrible trials, she finally managed the job, but an emergency kept her from completing the twelfth before she had to free them, so the youngest brother lived the rest of his life with swan wings.
Of all the compelling elements of this story that I return to again and again, the part that always takes me into the enchantment is the longing the girl feels when she sees the swans flying. The story taps into the human sense of ache and desire that comes with watching the strings of birds flying so high above earth, and hearing the wild barking of the swans as they travel northward.
Sometimes I am the sister, determined to save the others, to bring it all ’round right in the end. Sometimes I am that youngest brother, part human-part swan, doomed to live between great longings, grateful for both lives, exhilarated by the power of straddling worlds.
1. A sweet day off chaperoning a field trip with my second grader and his class to Nixon Park
2. Tundra swans
3. Gulls carpeting a field in white
4. Getting some exercise
5. A good novel (right now it’s Patricia McKillip’s Riddlemaster of Hed series–third time through)
May we walk in Beauty!