THE TREES are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine and fifty swans.
The nineteenth Autumn has come upon me
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,
All suddenly mount
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings
Upon their clamorous wings.
I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,
And now my heart is sore.
All’s changed since I, hearing at twilight,
The first time on this shore,
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
Trod with a lighter tread.
Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold,
Companionable streams or climb the air;
Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.
But now they drift on the still water
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake’s edge or pool
Delight men’s eyes, when I awake some day
To find they have flown away?
I take my girls on after-school outings at least twice a week. Last week we drove to Central Park Mall, a city park just three blocks away from the first apartment where we lived when Abbey was born. She spent the first six months of her life bouncing through downtown Omaha and the Old Market in a Bjorn baby sling. Nine years later, we ran around on the Mall and watched the swans. Assuming she goes away to college when she turns 18, her time with me is half over. That fact drives almost all my choices, now.