Once upon a time there was a magical oasis. Deep in the surrounding woods, its crystalline waters hidden from the eyes of men, only The Swan Whisperer knew of it. She’d discovered it quite by accident, but, enchanted by its beauty, she was drawn to return and in time, it became a second home to her.
One marvelous Spring day, the sun ridding the pond of the vestiges of Winter, the girl noticed something fluffy white amongst the reeds, and took it to be remaining snow. As she came closer, determined to stomp it, it raised its long silky neck and, as surprised as she exclaimed, “You startled me!” “I’m very sorry,” said the girl. “I thought you were a lump of snow!” “I am whiter than snow, and just as magical”, the creature replied. “I am a swan.” “Oh, how wonderful!”, the girl squealed in delight. “I’ve always wanted to meet a swan!” “Sssh,” said Mrs. Swan. “You’ll wake the babies. “I don’t see any babies,” the girl replied. “I trust you can keep a secret?” Mrs. Swan looked long and hard and deep into the girl’s quizzical blue eyes. “Of course I can!” Slightly indignant (the girl never lied), she promised Mrs. Swan she would tell no one. Mrs. Swan quietly opened her right wing to reveal six sleepy cygnets. Little gray balls of fluff, so darling, they hardly seemed real! The girl fell instantly in love.
“They should have names, so you can tell them apart!”, the girl offered. “*I* can tell them apart quite easily,” said Mrs. Swan, “but we will name them for you. Tell me, then, what is a name?” The girl grew quiet, pondering. “A name tells the world who you are,” she stated. “My name is Emory.” “I am very pleased to meet you, Emory,” said Mrs. Swan. “And what is *my* name? “I will call you Bella, which means beautiful.” “And my partner? He is beautiful. Will his name be Bella too?” Emory laughed. “How will you know who I’m calling if your name sounds the same?” Bella smiled. “You’re rather smart for a wingless creature.” Just then, smooth as silk and just as quiet, Mr. Swan glided through the reeds and sat beside his mate. “Who and what have we here?” he said playfully to his partner. After making introductions, Bella asked Emory to give her special love a name. “Oh, that’s easy,” Em said. “He is regal, strong and a brilliant protector, I’ll call him William.”
As the baby swans began fussing for food, Bella stood, plopping them all gently on the nest of reeds their parents had made for them. “Come children!” Bella called, swimming in small circles. “I’ll pull up something tasty for breakfast,” and she sent her long neck straight down to the bottom of the pond and came up with tender green shoots of plants, dangling from her bill. The cygnets ate with pleasure, and a little too much noise. Bella reminded them they must not attract predators, while William was at his post, scanning for intruders. “Well, who let *that* one in?” asked one of the cheekier cygnets. “Dad didn’t notice those abnormally long legs?” The children laughed so hard they fell over in the water (it takes a while to find your balance). Their parents had to chuckle.
“Very funny, little mite,” said Emory. “I am not a predator. Just the opposite.” The cygnets, quiet now, began to think. What does she mean by opposite? (words are trickier than water!) “Oh, you’re our friend!,” they squealed in unison. “For forever,” Emory smiled, gathering her things. “Oh, don’t go!” the children cried, but Em had work to do at home, and promised to return soon with a surprise. How exciting! A surprise! “I hope it’s something good to eat!” they all called after her.