The seasons don’t always stick to calendar dates to mark their entries and departures. It can be an inconvenience, I know. Sometimes we must look for signs, heralds that differ depending on where we live. Although sometimes nature throws us a curveball or two, on the whole I carve up and measure my time according to these local constants.
I’ve heard of people who, when it comes to summer, take stock of the darting flights of swallows as they pursue insects in the feeding lanes above their houses. But I prefer to wait for the ones that come after these, the birds that are among the last of the migrants to arrive: the swifts, living up to their names in their aerial manoeuvres. Around dusk, for the next couple of months, you can here them screaming overhead in their fraternal raiding parties, announcing to all who can hear: we are here, riding in on the southern winds to claim what is left from those who went before us.
Nature is like that. History is like that.
On leaving the nest in which they hatched, these birds fly non-stop for three whole years! Do you hear that? I have a daughter who won’t walk fifteen minutes into town.
These bird feed on the wing, mate on the wing, hell, they even sleep on the wing: snoozing with one side of their brain before switching over to the other. Three years of constant flight. My arms ache after one three minute, alcohol-fuelled session of YMCA.
Why don’t they have the occasional time out? You’d think that once in a while they might, I don’t know, sit on a telephone wire or something, and take in the sunset for a while, wouldn’t you?
But they never do. Swifts would make terrible poets.