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SWIFTS by Joe Stierheim


By CarolynCHolland(9,534) CarolynCHolland

Posted Tuesday, February 19, 2008
View All Blog Posts submitted by CarolynCHolland


 ---written by Joe Stierheim

Swifts fly in the evening, after the heat of day has passed and before the shadows of night begin to gather. True to their names, they speed through the sky, their wings swept back in distinctive crescent shapes, wheeling, darting, chasing each other in playful, joyful flight. I sit out in the evenings on these cool nights of May, delighting in watching their long dives and quick turns and hearing their twittering cries.

It’s not the first time I have indulged in this pastime. Many years ago, as a boy, I would lie in the grass of a country lawn and watch this same random flight of similar birds long since gone. I admired them then---admired their freedom and the wild delight they brought to their evening flights. It seemed to be joy, pure joy.

As I lay there on the grass, I tried to imagine how it would be to join them in their whirling patterns in the sky, tried to imagine the wind whistling by and the swirl of clouds above and earth below. How long, I wondered, did it take to develop the skill to execute a turning dive and at the last moment roll to the side, and then, with no hesitation, rise, twist and dive again? Was it an acquired skill or something they just did, as natural to them as the act of breathing? Perhaps it was something they simply had to do.

O stopped watching swifts. That was part of growing up. There were other things to do besides lie around on the grass of evenings, watching the sky. Decent people could not indulge in such senseless activities. I moved away from the country, lived in many places and did many things and, amid the jumble of accomplishment and disappointment, the swifts were forgotten.

So it was until recently, when I decided to make use of a small area behind the building in which I live to create a garden. It is a simple place. A few pots resting on the ground or on homemade benches hold a few vegetables and flowers. It gives me satisfaction from growing things and furnishes a pleasant outdoor place where I can spend time reading or writing. My last purchase for the project was an outdoor chair. I placed it in the garden a few days ago and when I sat down in it for the first time, I looked out over the rooftops of the neighboring buildings and there they were---greeting me after my long absence.

Their official name is Chimney Swift: Chaetura pelagica of the family Apodida, if you want to be totally accurate, and they measure five to five and a half inches in length. Somehow the process of classification never seemed to me to enhance their standing in the world or their significance to me. And I’m sure they don’t care. They still do the same thing they did when I was a boy. Their flights are the same spinning, rolling, circling, twisting delights as they were then. And now, since I have grown older and have more wisdom, I will do what I should have been doing my whole life. I will spend my evenings watching the swift-moving crescents in the sky until they tire and shadows lengthen and their flights for the day are done.





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Posted to ProBlogs.com on Tuesday, February 19, 2008
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