Swallows

There’s something about those tiny, hurtling, hunting scraps of life that always makes me smile…swallows, swifts, martens. I love them all. They always seem to me expressive of the sheer joy of flight, madly attempting to zip across the whole breadth of sky, all at once. A sight so vicariously exciting, I sometimes find myself breathless. Wondering all the more that not only can they scissor the sky into ribbons, but also have breath enough to sing.

Sing loudly enough for me, earthbound and quietly gasping, to hear.

I saw the first swallows this evening, and had to stop and hang out of my front window. Smiling, bit breathless…and, somehow, better.

And then, better still, as I recalled other, similar flights.

In Scotland, sitting on my front step, bathing in a golden June evening (all the more precious for it’s rarity)…and a sky so full of swallows it was like staring up into a living net.

In the albaicìn, in Grenada. Having spent all afternoon following narrow streets and passages. Twisting and climbing up the hill between tall white walls and tiled roofs, only seeing snatches of sky. To suddenly stumble, just as afternoon tipped over into evening, into open space. A square, a church, cafes and old trees…and a sky exploding with dozens of swifts. Hurtling about so fast I couldn’t follow them, was left with eyefulls of criss-crossing after-images. The sound more like screaming than singing.

As a tired teenager in Wastdale, after a long day’s walking with heavy rucksacks, dabbling my feet in a shallow river…and watching, entranced, martens and bats both zipping about just above the surface of the water. Chasing insects and their reflections, sometimes just breaking the surface with the softest of splashes. We watched until it grew too dark to see.

Scraps of memories, stitched together with a thread of headlong flight.

Is this one of the ways we come to love something (or someone, for that matter), I wonder ?

Accumulating bright moments, flashes of joy, here and there. Recollection spinning skeins to wind about ourselves until we are bound – helpless – with love?

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