by Robyn Gillam
From a human perspective, Pier 4 park is pretty quiet these days. However, on a cloudy March day, it was filled with the noise of water and land birds enjoying the spring. Tweets, clicks, quacks, honking and trumpeting filled the air. As I stood on the western pier, looking out over the bay, my contemplation was rudely interrupted by loud slapping. Expecting unauthorized human behaviour, I spun round, only to see a mute swan whacking the water with his great wings as he came in, feet first, for a landing on the bay. At first, this manoeuver looked awkward, but further observation revealed it was anything but.
The area was abuzz with social activity. A flock of Ring-beaked Gulls wheeled around the tree tops shouting to each other, while Trumpeter Swans and ducks like Scoters, Goldeneyes and Mallards swam happily around the deserted northern marina. Quacks emanating from the bushes on the southern side were echoed by a mallard drake swimming eagerly in their direction, his shiny green head all a-gleam. On the other side of the bay, the mute swan came in repeatedly for a landing, his wings whacking the water as loudly as possible and his big webbed feet zooming across the surface, before coming to a dignified stop. Fluffing his wings, he settled into the water, wagging his tail, making it obvious just what a magnificent bird he is.
Long ago, Fran Landesman wrote words to a song about disappointed love. Made famous by Ella Fitzgerald, it expresses the resentment of the spurned lover at the onset of spring, and provides our title. We now see on this a much larger scale. For an unspecified period of time, humans must isolate themselves from their fellows, other than close family members. As Spring unfolds, with trees and flowers bursting into bloom and birds and animals getting together to breed and enjoy the warmth, they are alone in their homes, or on solitary walks. Forced to avoid close contact with each other, they are going against everything they are hard-wired to do. Like the singer, irritated by the songs of birds, they might conclude that love is boring, they are all alone and the party is over.
It’s understandable. Visiting Pier 4 another day, I saw two gulls sitting at either end of the western pier. Were they practicing social distancing? Maybe, but they don’t have to. Sometime later they relocated to a stone in the water, where they huddled cozily together, their feathers ruffled by the wind. On other days, they can be seen splashing in the waves on the shoreline and feeding each other fish. Pairs of Canada Geese amble happily around the shore and on the grass, fly and swim over the lake. They’re not talking to me anymore. They don’t have any reason to. Unlike me, they are perfectly happy.
We shouldn’t let Spring hang us up. The fact that it always happens is cause for optimism, not resentment or misery. Social distancing is working, and if we keep to ourselves for a while longer, we will eventually be able to come back together. There’s always next Spring.
“Spring can really hang you up the most,” by Tommy Wolf and Fran Landesman, © Warner Chappell Music France, Wolfland, Fricon Music Company O/b/o Wolfland, Wolf Mills Music Inc.