One recent sunny Sunday in a nearby park in downtown Milan, Blackie, the Swan, followed me up and down the Lambro, like an aquatic puppy.
I took several pictures of her chugging along while I walked nearby on the riverbank. I chatted her up, she seemed a friendly sort.
“Nice day for a swim,” I said, “if a bit cold. For me at least,” and, “Look at your reflection, see how pretty you are?”
She looked at me, blinking, tilting her head, agreeing. I wished I had a morsel of something good to eat to offer her, but I was unprepared.
Then, all of a sudden, she swam off.
Upstream, a white-haired man on a rickety bicycle had arrived with a paper bag. It turned out to be full of focaccia. Breaking off pieces, chucking them into the water, the old man scolded the swan as if she were an errant lover.
“Where have you been? I’ve been looking all over kingdom come for you.”
When I asked the man where he usually met the swan, he glared at me.
‘She’s mine,’ his look seemed to say. ‘You were distracting her. She wasn’t immediately ready to greet me.’
“This is the first time I’ve seen a swan here,” I chirped nonetheless. Neither Blackie nor the man paid me any attention.
“Arrivederci,” I said. The man turned his back, while Blackie gobbled the bread, her red beak submerged in the ripples she was creating.
“That’s a good bird,” the man clucked.
On my way home, I thought of swans and love affairs. Ancient myth says that Zeus took on the semblance of a swan to ravish Leda, a beautiful maiden. The subject matter appealed to many artists over the ages. Here’s a copy by Giovanni Francesco Melzi in the Uffizi Museum of a lost original by Leonardo da Vinci:
Today, it seemed the opposite: Zeus was the man; Leda the swan. They had each other and were less lonely.