Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The swallows of St. Sebastian

Good friends Sue and Steve Allison came by for dinner last evening, and Lucy fixed some of her great gorgonzola pesto. Just before we ate a rhubarb pie that the boys and I made from rhubarb grown from a root I inherited from my Mom, we got to talking about the swallows who return to our neighborhood in Middletown, CT for a few weeks each year.

When the weather gets warm, and the light doesn't completely drain from the sky until almost 9, the sky above my house fills with the collective, tommy-gun chirping of several hundred swallows. It begins at about 8:30 with a swallow or two, and within four or five minutes the sky is alive with crescents on the wing, as the swallows dip and soar at alarming speed, through the indigo dusk. What begins as a counterclockwise eddy of hellbent parentheses, soon becomes a full-fledged whirlpool of careening feathers, with the chimney of St. Sebastian's church as the centerpoint of the vortex. Then after another eight or ten minutes of this dizzying, song-filled celebration, the birds begin to dip, one at a time, then in groups of three, five and ten down into the narrow chimney, with a slight flutter of wings to parry the plummet. In thirty seconds, only a few stragglers remain, and they soon find the flue, and disappear for the night. The evening is quiet once again, save for the roar of hot gases through an illegal straight pipe on a passing Harley. And the stars fight bravely to be seen above the glare of Main Street lights.

The show over, mosquito-bitten we ate rhubarb pie, and wondered if this amazing dance wasn't a metaphor for our own repetitive patterns.

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