Sunday, July 11, 2004


This morning while Echo was teaching yoga downstairs I was upstairs going through some books to give away/trade/sell/keep, a very slow, excessively distracting, frequently impossible process.

"Wow! I still have this? Haven't read this in years, love to read it again, especially the part where... I didn't know I had this, this looks interesting...", thus sorting maybe a dozen books an hour, with frequent breaks in which I gazed out the window into the tauntingly sunny day, and so saw the barn swallows (Hirunda rustica), who hang out on our power lines (particularly at sunset), do something I didn't know they could do.

We all know how wonderfully swallows all day catch their buggy meals in the air with a grace that is kin to all arts-- I never knew they could do the same thing on water. Across the road is a paddy that was left partly unplanted because of the peripheral fencework going on, so the quarter of one paddy nearest us is just a six-inch-deep pond.

Out of the corner of my book-bent eye I noticed a splash out there, which drew my attention immediately, largely because by now I was ready to welcome having my attention elsewhere, but also because I knew that in paddies there are no fish big enough to make such a splash, nor do the frogs splash like that.

Then SPLASH and a tiny feathery body was hurtling upward. I watched as a swallow (weighing about half an ounce) whirred and circled low over the water, spotted a bug and instantly hit the water with her beak (for some reason all the swallows I refer to in this story are female) to grab the bug, making a splash much bigger than herself and getting drenched, but getting lunch. The impact nearly halted the little aeronaut, who whirred harder and circled again and again, each time hitting the water WHAM!

Soon other swallows joined in, also nearly coming to a halt from the impact, then shooting upward again on those tiny and awesomely manipulable wedgewings, circling the still water like tiny concentrations of downy electricity, till all the surface bugs were gone. Then the flock returned exclusively to their airy realm, where they went on working sheer miracles of flight.

If only I could sort my books with such natural elegance... maybe I'll take a walk with that idea...

Illustration from Yankee Gardener


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