The drama among the Spring Grove swans, gliding tranquilly on their spring-fed lakes, has reached Shakespearean levels. Where this drama plays out is in the shadow of the gothic Dexter Mausoleum.
Before moving to Cincinnati, I was interested to see the unique tree specimens at the famed Spring Grove Arboretum. Imagine my surprise to find it’s also a cemetery established in 1845 by the Cincinnati Horticultural Society. Besides being full of beautiful graves (which sounds like an oxymoron) it’s a place where fashion photographers do their shoots, students make films, couples hold weddings and walkers follow designated 1-, 2- and 3.5-mile trails. It contains much fodder for contemplation.
I’m not sure when they first came to Spring Grove, but Dexter (named for the mausoleum nearby) claimed Geyser Lake, the easternmost lake, for him and his mate Charlene while Dale and Glenda (named for Glendale) chose Mahketewah Lake in the middle. Willow Water is to the west. The lakes are really large ponds that connect beneath paved roads that wind through the 733 acres.
Dexter and Charlene hatched a brood of cygnets some years ago that swam behind their mother until a snapping turtle ate them one by one. As if that weren’t enough grief, Charlene was then killed, probably by a fox. Spring Grove staff tried to hook Dexter up with new mates, but he rejected each and has lived by himself for years. Swans can live 20-30 years.
In the four years I’ve lived here, I’ve seen Dexter in his lake, Dale and Glenda in theirs. But early this summer Dexter wandered over to be with Dale and Glenda. At first the couple distanced themselves from him and moved over to Willow Water. But Dexter stalked them wherever they went, usually sitting on the banks watching the couple swim. When I asked a groundskeeper what was going on with the swans, he just said, “I dunno! They’re acting so weird!”
But yesterday I saw the swan couple in Geyser Lake, the single male in Willow Lake and also saw a woman with a folding chair sitting and watching the couple. She’d been coming every day at lunchtime and had the full story.
After Dexter bided his time all summer, he bloodied Dale a couple different times which seems to have impressed Glenda. When she cozied up to Dexter, Dale went up and lay on the lawn, cried the missing mate call which drew Glenda who went to him and they did a courtship dance. Still, she moved with Dexter to his Geyser Lake abode.
We’ve all learned that swans are monogamous for life. But 2020 -– true to form—makes us face the reality that swans don’t always mate for life.