Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Swallows Came Back Today

The swallows came back today. I saw them as soon as I left my front door. I love to watch the swallows. They dive and whirl and seem to have so much fun. They don't care if you stand and watch them. Their colours are beautiful, if you can track one with your eyes for long enough to really see them. You might think they're a bit bland at first - just black and white - but they're not. Their feathers are black and white but also grey and silver in every shade.

I wonder what made them come back? Years ago, when they first appeared, I thought perhaps they migrated for the winter, but it's not that simple. There's no pattern to when they'll come or go. They might come three times in one year, or take three years between visits. Suddenly they are here, just a dozen or so at first. Over the next days and weeks their numbers will double again and again. Then their numbers will keep halving in the same way. One day - and I know it's coming even as I see the first of them flitting in the morning sun - they'll all be gone.

I can never be certain, once they've gone, that they'll ever come back. How can I? I don't know what brought them here, what will make them leave. It saddens me that their departure is so certain, while their return is so tentative. Even after twenty years, I still can't be sure.

While I walk, one of the swallows chases a small moth closely like a fighter plane. It banks left and right, up and down, intent on its prey. It almost brushes my face. I shout in surprise, and then laugh at the joy of it, and my own reaction. I look around, but everyone else on the street ignores me. They seem to be ignoring the swallows too.

I'm glad the swallows came back today. I'd like to tell Julie, my wife; she'd like to know. She loved the swallows, too. I don't know what made Julie come into my life either. I don't know why the cancer came to take her. But while I had her, I knew from the lesson of the swallows that, despite the joy we shared, her departure, one day, would be certain. It was sooner than I'd hoped, but later than it could have been.

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