The geese are back. Their wild honking fades above my room as they glide above in their v-formation, headed to the nearby playa lake. Some, I imagine, will continue further south for a little ways, while for the others, this is their last stop for the winter. And with these far away travelers comes a sense of peace and quiet reflection on the circle of their lives and how it is a part of the circle of mine.
The sense of suspended peace amidst the continuance of time is woven into a short story called “Swans” that is part of Rick Bass’s book, The Hermit’s Story. It reminds me of the circle the swans swim in order to keep the ice from freezing between them, to keep time from trapping them. They and the forest are in contrast to the story’s characters, who are illustrated as being suspended peacefully, perfectly, above time, almost untouched by time. Until one character begins to slip, his brain uncoiling. Then the sense of time is more noticeable, moving through the forest unseen except in the trees that have fallen and begun to rot.
Of the stories in the book, “Swans” does not carry the honor of a Pushcart Prize like “The Fireman” carries, and it obviously is not the title of the collection, like “The Hermit’s Story.” And yet, its quiet voice drifts through my mind more than the conflagrations of “The Fireman” or the blue of “The Hermit’s Story.” They are wondrous, but not quite as potent to me as “Swans.”
“Swans” is a quiet prose, stroking the strings of rhetoric like a harp, letting go at just the right moments. I was unaware of the chiming the prose makes until I finished it, sensing a loss of sound in my head as though someone who was playing the piano in another room had suddenly stopped. The imagery of “Swans” is delightful – baking bread, falling snow, the sound of Mozart drifting through the forest, the meditative routine of working on machines. It is warm and comforting, a fire that dances amidst the shadow of death, illuminating the circle of things.