Why the Swan Didn’t Cross the Road.

A swan who had grown up among chickens on a farm in rural Quebec sometimes dreamed of flying. Some mornings when he awoke, he imagined that he could see the entire farm viewed from another world beyond the barn yard, beyond the society of his sisters sleeping, pecking, and twice a day running for the fence when the farmer’s wife would walk out of the shed—the door slamming behind her—carrying a shiny, silver pail, and fling kernels of grain, glinting like slivers of gold in the morning sun, across the yard. The swan would join the rush forward and manage to gather a few seeds, dipping, turning, in order to delve among the pebbles for edible morsels. But—never as fast as the others—he felt clumsy and slow as if he was not suited for these daily competitive rituals. Over time, he ceased trying, and just went through the motions in order not to appear too different.

Then one morning, when it had rained the night before, the farmer’s wife slipped as she began to toss the grain over the fence so that the contents of the pail, instead of covering the ground inside the yard, flew straight overhead, and the swan, without forethought or strategy, his head arcing upwards, began to run straight forward. Before he could collide with the wire mesh fence, he was airborne and gliding above the farmer’s wife, who was still sprawled on the muddy ground with the silver pail on its side ten feet away. With sublime indifference, the swan felt the rain of seeds glancing off his beak and extended wings.

Rising higher, soon the entire farm was spread out below. He felt a pang of fear. There he was, leaving behind the only neighborhood he had every known, leaving behind the familiar meals, the company of his sisters and the thin comfort of their squawking, their pecking, and the familiar safety of the world he knew.

When the gleaming light of a lake came into view–with no idea what this swath of blue could be, materializing like a dream in the midst of the brown and green fields–his wings beat faster, as he realized that there was no turning back, for there was no path to turn back on.

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