I guess it lasted all of 20 seconds, but beautiful and mysterious things sometimes happen like that -- in flashes, out of nowhere, when least expected, leaving you stunned and awed. I have replayed this particular moment over and over in my mind.
It happened the other afternoon, while the sun was still fairly high. We were drifting in a canoe through a marshy, muddy pool off a bloated creek in northern Baltimore County. We were near a village -- a nursery, really -- of Canada geese, those handsome birds with throats of black velvet. They had discovered the solitude and safety of this place long before we had. Their goslings ambled about the river bank, little tufts of brown fluff among the tall grass, brush and fallen tree limbs. Off in a corner of the pool, about 30 yards from the canoe, was one white swan.
As if its mere presence wasn't impressive enough -- I would have been satisfied just to watch it float on the water -- the great bird decided we had drifted too close and, bobbing slightly forward, it began its ascent. The ascent was what stopped us.
My companion and I found ourselves riveted by the ponderous grace of the swan as it spread its large wings, straightened its long neck and rose slowly off the murky water, away from the goose village, then climbed into the air above us. I don't think I have ever more enjoyed 20 seconds in nature, just sitting there in the canoe, stone silent and reverential, as this great bird climbed higher over the creek and the forested ridge above.
In the cathedral silence of that moment, we could hear a light whistle, like something from a quavering flute, as the swan's wings displaced air and powered the bird away from us. "Wingbeats of flying birds produce a singing note," my field guide says of the mute swan, and that's probably what we heard, until the bird disappeared.
My companion and I sat there for a while, unable to find adequate words for what we had just seen. And words didn't seem to matter, anyway.
A ball with a past
If you get to the Babe Ruth Museum for the special exhibition on the Orioles' 1966 championship season, check out David Reiss' baseball. It's the first one Frank Robinson hit for a home run as an Oriole, his first in Memorial Stadium. Reiss was 16 at the time and grabbed the souvenir. Later, on May 8, 1966, he was allowed to meet Frank between games of a doubleheader with the Indians. Frank autographed the ball for Reiss -- no charge, too -- then promised to hit a homer for the kid in the second game. He did -- off Luis Tiant, and the ball sailed completely out of the park, the only one ever.
I think this notice on dental license renewals, issued by the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, needs a little revision: "If there are additions, corrections, or changes, please mark the appropriate box using the codes provided. Your response to these questions will help us monitor the status of your profession in Maryland. Your cooperation in this matter is appropriated."
Bites, boys and bikes
On the horizon: Little Havana, a restaurant and bar with Cuban themes, foods and maybe even cigars, is coming to the Inner Harbor. The Lancers Boys Club, a Baltimore fixture with more than 3,000 (including the mayor) alumni, will celebrate its 50th anniversary next month with a big reunion. Contact former Lancer Louis Berney at 889-2402. Look for more than the usual number of celebrities at this year's Preakness; I hear ABC Sports insists on stars in its pre-race telecasts and has been encouraging more Hollywood types to attend. A compromise might be worked out between the city and mountain bikers over their use of trails by Loch Raven Reservoir. The city has proposed a ban on biking, but it looks like the parties are talking.
A Poe-er choice
Our Remington correspondent, Ingmar Berger, has his eyes on the Ravens and says to watch for the naming of the team's cheerleaders and mascot. "That's gotta happen soon, right?" says Ingmar. "My suggestions? Name the cheerleaders the Sweet Lenores and the mascot Neville Moore. What do you think?" I think you should lay off the pale ale for a while, Ingmar.
Artlinks by the Power Plant -- where miniature golf meets contemporary art. Wacky. Wack. Fabulous. Fab. Loved it. Love you. Maryland Art Place is cool, and that Susy Sinex is a genius. These artists are wild, they're so artistic! And the holes are not easy to play (except for one -- I'm not tellin' -- which was quite popular with the hole-in-one crowd). The other night, Camille Paglia, for cryin' out loud -- the famous, the controversial Camille Paglia -- was indulging in putt-putt instead of gender politics. Listen to me now -- take the kids. No need to go to Ocean City for challenging miniature golf this year.
If you have an item for This Just In -- or if you see Jamie Lee Curtis in Baltimore -- contact Dan Rodricks at 332-6166, or write to The Sun, 501 N. Calvert
Pub Date: 5/13/96