I drove by the little lake at the end of our winding road where two white swans abide. The past thirty-some years, I’ve seldom spied this bashful pair swimming together on the lake. My timing has never coincided with a glimpse of them gliding along with their chicks, named “cygnets”.

Reeds and other vegetation thrive around the pond’s edge, ideal conditions for nourishment, nesting, and protection from predators. It’s a special day when I glimpse the white feathers of the male, “cygnet olor”, and female, “pen”, if only a second.

Considering the lifespan of a mute swan could exceed the years I’ve lived on this former cow path, it is possible the pair is the same I first saw three decades ago.

Then, at 8:40 a.m. Sunday morning, there stood two swans preening on the pond’s shore. From black knob and orange/red beak to webbed feet, they faced the road. As if to say “hello”, one swan flapped its powerful wings and extended its graceful neck.

The wide, feathery wingspan and the couple wading the water together settled into memory. The serene effect was similar to finding our two cats sleeping under the Christmas tree the previous night. As if in some exotic kingdom, the cats slept in luxury under white lights and ornaments.

I reserved the tree’s upper branches for the fragile, blue bulbs I inherited from my mother, safe from the cats. When our daughters were young, my mother-in-law gifted them Precious Moments figurines to annually recall their childhoods. Now, my grown grandchild’s artwork adorns the tree.

Every ornament came from a loved one, and tells a story.

I’d just decorated the tree and concealed the stand with the silky, burgundy, quilted skirt I found on sale some Christmas past. On cue, Cuddles nuzzled in the soft fabric under the branches. Her sister Mitty soon joined her.

Again, they claimed their favorite Advent napping place as if their sixth sense knew I would soon infringe upon their cozy bed with one wrapped package after another.

Eventually, the Christmas gifts will disappear. Depending how this tree sheds needles, sometime after New Year’s Day I’ll retrieve from the basement the big, battered box the cats know well. They’ll sniff around as I begin dismantling the tree-and, to their disapproval, I’ll remove their Christmas blanket.

I’ll also stow away the fifteen ceramic nativity characters my mother-in-law fired in her basement kiln for my gifts the span of twenty years.

For each Christmas I place Joseph, Mary, baby Jesus in the manger, and the angel, upon a small table in a dining room corner. I add four shepherds with three sheep nosing the infant’s feet. Three wise men from afar and the donkey complete the scene.

Dear Reader, I ponder again the lowly beast of burden and its fidelity to Mary and Josef-and know again the tranquility of two swans preening. And our two cats sleeping under the tree this Advent season.

And I sing, “Joy to the World! The Lord has come!”

Contact Iris at irisfarmletters@gmail.com