Tag Archives: black swan

Blue Moons and Black Swans

You have to admit it’s a catchy title, but the full moon in January is really a wolf moon – there will be one on the thirtieth. We did begin the year with a blue moon though. It’s amazing, the amount of useless trivia I store in my head. As for that other rarity, the black swan…well, therein lies the tale.

The black swan is the state bird of Western Australia. It figures on their flag, it appears on the Coat of Arms of the City of Perth, and there are even black swan mosaics on the pavements in Perth city. Even the eggs I buy come stamped with swans.

Of course, it’s only fitting that the city lies on the banks of the Swan River, so named by Dutch explorer Willem de Vlamingh. The Aborigines have a different story to tell about the river though – it was created when a giant serpent called the Waugyl wound its way to the sea, leaving a deep track that filled up with rainwater. I wonder whether the weekend sailing enthusiasts ever think about this when they cruise through what is essentially a snake track.

The other ‘black swan’ I encountered this year was Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book on unpredictable phenomena – like the world wars, Harry Potter, computers, Google, and neckties. Although why he should think ties are a black swan, is a mystery to me. It’s a pretty sure bet that people will always do unpredictable and ridiculous things in the name of fashion – which, of course, seem like good ideas at the time. Still, the book was interesting enough to hold my attention for a few chapters.

What really intrigues me is that in spite of all this talk of black swans, I still haven’t seen the real deal. My Aussie friend offered to take me “to see the swans” when she was showing me around. What, see a bird I’ve already seen stuffed in the museum and swimming in the zoo? I asked her to take me to the beach instead, showing (I thought) some true Australian spirit. Surely black swans were to Perth what pigeons are to Mumbai?

Apparently not. I’ve spent nearly a year in Perth now and have learnt to spot willy wagtails, spotted doves, kookaburras and galahs. No black swans yet. So that’s next on my cultural to-do list. Spot the black swan in the wild. That would be a feather in my cap indeed. Until then, the black swan will remain a blue moon for me.