to Celebrate an Unflappable Pair
SCULPTED, PHOTOGRAPHED, AND WRITTEN BY GREG ARENS
When trumpeter swans form a pair, they devote themselves to one another for life. Together they embark on vast journeys, from north to south and back again, and again, and again. In flight they take turns at the front, so the other can find respite from the draft.
Each trumpeter protects the other against danger and predation. And when they create young ones, they are fierce parents who will sacrifice all to keep their brood from harm.
Ruby flies on
a custom bent-wood frame.
When breezes blow,
she dances lifelike in
the currents, fore and aft
and side to side.
Walter and Gail Jorgensen are the same. Their journey together spans forty years, soaring through the joys and sorrows of life as an unflappable pair. Nothing—from the tragic loss of their son Ward to Gail’s victorious battle with cancer—has been able to loosen the bonds between them.
The big day. I accompanied Alison to her parents’ home on the Pine River to set up Ruby for the grand unveiling. They were overjoyed, and clearly as devoted to one another as they were forty years ago. What a pair!
Alison Jorgensen is Walter and Gail’s daughter. As her parents’ 40th wedding anniversary approached, she thought about swans and how the birds personified their devotion to each other. She had an idea for a very special gift, and knowing that I sculpted birds—ranging from tiny hummingbirds to giant Canada geese—she asked, “Can you make my parents a swan?”
A Big Ask
After accepting Alison’s unique commission, I took a deep breath and pondered the best strategy for building a very, very, very big bird. Trumpeters, when fully mature, stretch to six and a half feet in length with a whopping seven-foot wingspan! So, I had some figuring to do before making the chips fly. My first step in creating Ruby was to imagine what she would look like when completed. Studying in-flight photos and spending time at a local trumpeter hangout on the Gull River was key to envisioning the Jorgensens’ swan. Then, I sharpened my pencil.