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May 2, 2013

Swallow talk and bluebird vigilance

I assume the swallows have returned to Capistrano. They have returned to Hawthorn Hill as well.

Fortunately, their numbers are fewer here so we are afforded a daily opportunity to get to know one another – at least during the breeding season. As I write, one pair has taken up residence in a nest box a few feet from the entrance to our upper garden. Since it overlooks the path I take to the hen house and newspaper box every morning, we have become comfortably acclimated to one another. In many respects I find developing a relationship with a pair of swallows less daunting than is often the case with my fellow creatures. I attribute that to the absence of talk. I respect their space and they return the favor. The only times they get a bit antsy, even aggressive, is when the little ones have arrived.

Their anxiety decreases over the course of a few days when they figure I am not much of a threat. Despite being an avid bird watcher and someone who finds appreciating their existence both spiritually and philosophically informative, I have always resisted the temptation to intrude on their interior space. The French philosopher Gaston Bachelard writes eloquently about the nature of space, especially the importance of not violating its sanctity. Swallows and humans get on nicely when they recognize the sanctity of space and the necessity of maintaining its integrity. We find ourselves in the pickle we’re in (actually we are swimming about in a sea of pickles!) because we do not value or understand the interrelationship between freedom and the obligations that freedom requires.

We put up nest boxes all over the place so that our summer visitors have a comfy place to hang out, breed, raise their young and take advantage of the recreational activities that a summer spa such as ours has to offer. The swallows have already picked their spots. A pair of bluebirds has been hanging around the last few days, always wary of the swallows and seemingly going out of their way to keep to themselves. They fly from tree branch to fence post top checking out the grass bound insect supply, every once in a while swooping down from their perch to pick off an unwitting morsel. I envy their lunch budget, as well as their eclectic taste. There is something to be said for making do with what is available. Birds are true locavores, local eaters. It is not a term I like, but it does the job.

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