0 Swan Lake

After hitting the auction the other day, we took a slight detour on our way home and rode over to one of our favorite places in Sumter, Swan Lake-Iris Gardens.

According to the City of Sumter's webpage dedicated to Swan Lake-Iris Gardens, the property is the only public park in the United States to feature all eight swan species, representing North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. The park actually dates to 1927, when local businessman Hamilton Carr Bland began developing 30 acres of swampland into a fishing retreat. Apparently, while Mr. Bland was developing the property, he also was attempting to landscape the grounds of his home with Japanese irises. However, legend has it that when the irises failed miserably at his home, he ordered his gardener to dig up all of the bulbs and dump them at the swamp. And lo and behold, the following spring the bulbs unexpectedly burst into bloom, creating an accidental garden, or as Southern Living has described it, "a lovely mistake." 

In addition to swans and irises, today the park also houses a butterfly garden and a chocolate garden. Of course I was drawn to the idea of a chocolate garden; its name actually refers to the chocolate-colored, edible plants that grow there, such as Chocolate Cherry Tomatoes, Chocolate Corn, and Chocolate Miniature Bell Peppers, as well as the chocolate-smelling, flowering plants that grow there, such as Chocolate Daisy, Chocolate Cosmos, and Chocolate Mint. (Speaking of chocolate mint, I actually snapped the picture to the right at the Charleston Farmers Market the other weekend because I had never before seen or heard of the deliciously-named plant.)

Anyway, back to the park: it is delightful. The grounds are beautiful, as are the swans. What's more, the trumpeter swans actually sound like trumpets, and the black swans actually are black. (I love things that are appropriately named, and to be honest, Natalie Portman's Academy Award-winning performance in Black Swan has had me a bit confused on the issue.) 

The thing about swans, however, is that while they are exceptionally graceful, they're also a bit territorial (and therefore scary). But the fact that an outing to Swan Lake invites a bit of danger only serves to keep things interesting, at least if you ask me.

Speaking of outings made interesting by swan-induced danger, about this time last year, we joined some friends of ours and their one-year old daughter for a stroll around the lake one afternoon. The dad, who was charged with pushing the stroller and who shall remain unnamed here, apparently pushed the stroller a bit too close to what appeared to be a very calm swan but was instead a very angry swan. By the time our friend realized that the swan was not calm (but was instead angry), the swan had already risen up, spread her wings, and begun running towards the stroller and honking loudly in the baby's face. I will never forget the look of complete fear in our friend's eyes as he flung the stroller around (thankfully, into the hands of his wife who somehow managed to keep it upright) and hightailed it out of the swan's way. Unfortunately, our friend wasn't quite quick enough to avoid the swan nipping his behind, but dad's behind being nipped is definitely better than any baby part being nipped. Although we laughed a little bit (more like a lot) at our friend's reaction to the angry swan (because from at least one perspective, it looked a bit like he was sacrificing his child to the bird), I do have to say that I cannot entirely blame him for his fear. Like I said, swans are kind of scary.

Now, I thought Tod had learned from our experience last year, but apparently, there's just something about men that makes them feel like they can safely approach wildlife. (Women just seem to know better when it comes to these things.) So, I cannot say that I was super surprised the other day when Tod, like our friend in the above tale, ventured a bit too close to a swan. Maybe swans just don't like wheels. After all, our friend was pushing a stroller, and Tod was walking with his bike. I honestly don't know. But regardless, when Tod stepped a bit too close to the calm-looking-but-angry-instead swan, that bird turned directly towards him and started approaching him with ruffled tail feathers. I just knew I was going to witness a full-on swan attack when Tod swiftly (or like a girl, some might say), ran with his bike behind a trashcan, placing both the bike and the trashcan between him and the bird. Tod spent a minute or two trying to stare down the bird before he finally mustered the courage to run away with his bike. What was I doing while this was going down, you wonder? Oh, you know, just laughing and making sure to catch the whole thing on video. (He wasn't really in danger, people. You know I wouldn't laugh at someone who was really in danger. Come on now.) Sadly for you though, I'm keeping that video to myself. Instead, you'll just have to be satisfied with this picture, which really doesn't do the whole thing justice but is still pretty funny. 


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