Diary: The Swallow’s Return


At the beginning of last week I witnessed the first swallow of spring. Like a solitary sentinel, a visionary pioneer, he has yet to be joined by any of his brethren. He has a white splotch on his dorsal feathers – (probably shit from a bird with superior altitude of bowel movement) – and bears the animated expectancy of one who knows a great party is just around the corner.

It always lifts my spirit to see him in the morning, perching on the telegraph wire outside the converted mountain farmhouse of the woman I work for. He looks back and forth, with great anticipation, as the other birds busy themselves with their work: robins cockily commanding from wooden posts; pied wagtails restlessly hunting for insects on craggy rocks, exhibiting perpetual bob.

But the Swallow’s only activity is to wait. He is conserving his energy for the great melee of activity that is to come.

Oh, how I envy the rejoicing that must follow when by his fellow swallows he is rejoined! Just put yourself in mind of it – that long flight over Africa, whether above mazy grassland or Saharan expanse, wildebeest and Zebra charging, scorpions and nomads burrowing in sand – but they whizz mindlessly away beneath you, as you are impelled by insane propulsion, an unbending determination that sings out: “TO WALES I MUST GO!”

You’ve made many pit-stops along the way, of course; but only is it here, on the vantage of this telephone wire, that you can truly rest.

But you do not want to rest. The potential for summer has clawed under your skin. You do not want to sit and stoop, but to whorl and dance, to cut impossible patterns in the air with your crazed band of sharp-winged geometricians – every part of the air an aerial feast as insects fly unwittingly into your beak – and ecstasy will be the due reward of all your long-felt waiting. And you need no longer think of telegraph wires until August or September comes – (as though uncertain which will arrive first!) – and bound to Africa you must return.

Like that swallow, I thirst for the effervescence of camaraderie, to have confidence in the air that constantly uplifts me. And once my anxiety is gone from me, my own ecstatic ascent will be just as maddening and joy-ridden.