Every morning I awake to little wings stretching, to sleepy chitters and the scratching of taloned toes. There is a nest of swallows that live in the roof beams above my bed. Every morning, they awake long before the light.
They spend the day swooping past my fourth floor window, screaming in voices that a far from pretty. Songbirds they are not, it seems. They swoop and the holler at one another, or they sit like irritated puffs of blue and black and yellow on the wall.
Until I moved here, I always liked swallows. I liked to see them spinning and diving at the University, liked to watch them yell at each other from the eaves of the buildings. I always liked the way they look in art, the shapely outline of their wings long a symbol of grace and beauty.
I do not think I like swallows any more. We humans may admire them on wing for their beauty and grace, but up close the truth is a little different. They are funny looking and they are loud. Their beaks look roughly twice the size of their head, and when they sit still they have a look of perpetual grump. They’re clumsy, too, it would seem: the noises they make above my head at night lead me to think at least one falls off its perch every evening.
No, having spent this much time in close proximity to swallows, I do not think I like them any more. I think I just might love them. I adore these awkward little flat-mates of mine. When they return in the evenings, they arrive like superheroes, swooping and diving on eyelash-thin wings just outside my window. Yet, as they scuttle into their roost, they scream and shuffle and scratch and generally make a racket that you would never expect of the graceful birds we believe them to be. And yet again, during the day and the twilight, when they soar past my window, I see only their power and the perfection of their flight.
These noisy creatures have come to be a part of my daily routine—waking me up, keeping me company while I work high above the normal world, and letting me know when the day is done by their noisy arrival. When I lie down at night and hear their fitful stirring above my head, I like to think that they are here to help remind me of the beautiful imperfection that is life. I try to embrace my future with this picture of the swallows: unseen, it seems awkward and unaccountable, but once it is moving, once it is active, it will flow with the grace that only nature provides.
Swallows on the fence at Avebury, June 19 2010.
- Current Mood: indescribable