Sunday, 10 May 2009

The First Swifts of Summer

Out for a run at 7.30 am and heard a familiar sound  - the scream of swifts as they wheeled overhead.  It stopped me in my tracks and I shouted SWIFTS! The poor man walking past me gave me a strange look and a wide berth.  This is what Richard Mabey wrote about swifts in his book Nature Cure

“As a relationship my thing with swifts is so one sided as to be hardly worthy of the name.  The birds don’t give a fig about me or any of us.  Yet they are connected with us indirectly, even when we are not aware of them, through the environments and senses that we share.  We respond to spring, to the lift of fine weather, to the basic biological urge to play… On Ascension Day I was sent this short poem out of the blue:

May, Just into

Double figures.

Everything green

And brilliant-

The first warm day.

Soft shoes, no socks,

Then you call out

The swifts are back!

Listen.  Look up!

Listen.  Look up!  Did birds like swifts arriving mysteriously in the spring, reappearing from nowhere at dawn, play their part in the generation of resurrection stories?  Do they still register at the corners of our vision and reason, something immanent?  Despite our science and our humanism, our whole culture is infused with myths and symbols of landscape and nature, emblems of the seasons, of decay and rebirth, of the boundaries between the wild and tame, myths of migration and transmigration of invisible monsters and lands of lost content.”

Welcome back swifts - you gladden the heart.

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