We found a swallow in our garden last week, a baby swallow or fledgling. I’m not so sure he was ready to fledge but he found himself out of the nest all the same. Watching him flap his wings and cooing over his downy head (well, I cooed) we found ourselves arguing over what to call him.
‘Star,’ I dreamily suggested, only to be shot down by a withering stare from hubs.
‘Sven,’ he countered.
I shook my head violently, trying to dislodge the image of an aging ex football manager with a white blonde comb over.
‘What about Stephen?’
I could have argued that we didn’t know whether the swallow was male or female, that the name was a little ordinary for our extraordinary new friend but somehow the simplicity and warmth of this familiar name felt right.
We watched him from the window constantly. When hubs left the house he appointed me baby-sitter and cat-scarer-offer. I solemnly accepted, inwardly wondering if I would be quick enough to stop a cat mid-pounce. I decided a training regime was required to get up to speed and proceeded to jog on the spot, never taking my eyes off the bird in the garden.
Of course, we couldn’t keep it up. Eventually the two of us left the house to visit family and Stephen was left to his own devices with only his parents to keep a watchful eye (just as it should be really). On our return he was gone. Hubs scoured the garden, cursing the local feline community while I looked up to the sky. A subdued Hubs joined me moments later and the following dialogue ensued.
“Could that be him?”
“It could be. Look, there’s a small swallow following two bigger ones. Watch him land. We’ll know if he flaps around.”
Well, the swallow landed and he looked a little clumsy but really he was too far away for us to tell if he was our Stephen. And so, that was our brutal taste of what it means to watch a young life develop, find wings and depart. No doubt Stephen and his kind will be heading for sunnier climes shortly. It’s one of nature’s most dramatic offerings as countless swallows throng and mass, groups gathering on telephone wires, gabbling their strange swallow-speak, planning their route. Meanwhile, we stay behind, wrestling with our day to day lives as Winter closes in and Spring is distant. In our dreams we fly.
Picture: Copyright George Moore, August 2012.
The Story of our Baby Swallow.