When Tisen and I go to the park, the Cliff Swallows buzz over our heads. I took my binocs over with me one morning to figure out what they were. They gave me quite a run for my money making me chase them with my lenses, getting just enough of a glimpse of their details to know for sure what category to place them in, what name to give them, what song to expect from them.
There is something about swallows diving through the air that makes me want to forget all about what kind of bird they are and simply join them in the freedom of flight. The level of emotion I feel watching them is inexplicable except maybe, at an unconscious level, they connect me to my mother.
It was, after all, my mother who first introduced me to the wonder of birds. Although the most exotic bird I remember my mother identifying was the American Goldfinch, her fascination with them was contagious. My mother wasn’t really about identifying them or photographing them or getting up close to them. She was all about birdness in its purest form.
She just felt joy when she saw a bird. Any bird. As long as it wasn’t in a cage.
Perhaps that’s what the swallows remind me of. Because I was unsure of what name went with them, for weeks I watched them swoop and dive with the kind of delight my mother would have taken in seeing them.
I am reminded of a reoccurring dream I used to have as a child. In it, I was running down the street I grew up on. Running as fast as the wind. Then, my steps would grow longer and I would soar through the air further and further between foot falls. The feeling of flying between foot steps was so profound that when I woke up, I could feel the remnants of the dream physically in my stomach. I so loved that feeling.
I wonder if my mother used to dream about flying?
There are times when her absence is still so painful I cannot bear to think of her. Even though it’s been 13 years since her death, I so wish I could take her to see the swallows across the street. I so wish I could point out the Eastern Towhee calling from the tree tops. I so wish she could see the Eastern Bluebirds nesting in the bird house. As if showing her birds might somehow make up for all the times I broke her heart. As if a birdsong might heal the remnants of the hurt.
In lieu of sharing these birds with her, I share them with you. Unfortunately, the swallows are too quick in flight for me to photograph. But, having discovered their nests clinging to the Western side of the Market Street bridge, I can capture them there. Frozen in a frame–I hope it’s not too much like a cage.
- The Singing Towhee (nomadicmainstream.com)
- Hunting Herons (nomadicmainstream.com)
- Waiting for a Bird Like You (nomadicmainstream.com)