Hard to believe that just a few weeks ago I was busy floating down the Seine River in France with my parents.

We did a cruise and had ourselves a bon temps eating cheese.

OK. May I just say no one makes better cheese than our French friends? Way to go, Team France!

(The French eat a lot of baguettes, too, prompting our tour guide to describe a beautiful woman as one having legs "longer than a day without a bread.")

Besides eating cheese, we also saw a lot of awesome sights, although reading my diary you'd THINK the only thing I saw in France was swans.

For some reason, every time I saw a pair of swans gliding on the river, I made note of it. Consequently, a lot of diary entries look like these:

"Saw swans!"

"Saw swans drifting!"

"Saw drifting swans!"

Ooh la la!

Clearly, I "heart" swans.

I remember a story my friend Becky told me about the time she and her family saw a whole flock of swans floating on the water near their cabin in Island Park.

Suddenly, the birds took flight, each one treading the wintry air with great white wings. The silvery noise, Becky said, sounded exactly like bells ringing.

Whenever I think of that moment, I wish with all my heart that I'd been there with Becky on the water's edge, listening to wild Christmas music.

And then I can never see swans without thinking of a favorite poem, "The Wild Swans at Coole," by W. B. Yeats.

In it, the speaker tells of visiting the same spot each autumn where he finds swans "mysterious, beautiful," skimming the water's surface. And with each passing year, he notes the changes in himself:

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.

It's a melancholy poem to be sure, but I am always moved when I read it. (Thanks, Dr. Geary, for making me read it for the first time in your British lit class!) (BTW, I was the one with the bad perm in the Albertson's bakery uniform, which I sometimes wore because I had to go to work right after we met. I know I looked like I wasn't paying attention, but as you can see, I was!)


I happened to mention my recent swan fixation to my parents, which gave the three of us a good laugh, because guess what? I can get in my car, drive to Liberty Park (which is only a couple of miles away from my house), and look at swans any time I want to.

You don't have to go all the way to France for that.

But maybe you have to go to France (or someplace else) to open your eyes and help you see clearly the beautiful thing that's close at hand.

e-mail: acannon@desnews.com