A Backstory: Return of an Old Friend

We all have markers, things we anticipate that connect us to the cycles of the year. Like welcome signs to tell us we’ve arrived somewhere.  For some, it might be the first pitch of baseball season or Easter bunny treats on store shelves. For me, nothing quite marks the spring like the arrival of the swallows.

Once they are here, it is well and truly spring! Always, my spirits soar with them as they swoop and circle far above, creating roller coasters out of thin air. Where have they been all winter?

Sometimes it is their chirpy song I hear first; other times is their shape or impressive flight pattern that catches my attention.

(<= alas, my only photo of my childhood friends)

This year, today (!), three of them arrived, swooping in wide circles above the swallow box we have on the side of the house. Maybe last year’s hatchlings have come back to stake a claim!

When I was a child, my bird-loving mom put out swallow boxes specially built by my dad. On spring days my brother and I would hunt for feathers, collecting them in our pockets as we roamed about the neighborhood.

Soft downy white feathers were the best.

When we got home, we’d hold them up, tippytoed and arms outstretched, until “our” violet green swallows would notice.

Then we’d release the feathers into the breeze and they’d be scooped up in midair, just over our heads. Prizes taken directly to the nest.


(<= my brother and I; behind those angelic smiles I think we were ready for fisticuffs when that photo was taken, but we were united in our aim to help feather the swallows’ nests)


I like to think generations of swallows trusted our help enough to reward us by coming back. Some years we’d witness extended midair battles to decide who got to nest in our box.

Sometimes the swallows liked us too much. Like when barn swallows just couldn’t be dissuaded from building their mud nest on the light above our front door.

Eventually we resigned ourselves to sharing, and put out a tarp to catch droppings. We’d resort to going ALL the way around to the back door (SUCH a hardship, I know) to avoid indignantly-chirpy targeted nose-dive attacks.

Who would think that a tiny little bird could so effectively take control of a human space?!

Mail delivery became problematic. Our mailslot was in the front door.  Probably not too many mailpeople experienced hazardous birds interfering in their work, but ours did.

And every day I laughed – how funny to be bossed by the swallows!

For me, swallows mark far more than just the arrival of spring. They are a symbol of fellowship and symbiosis and adventurous journeys. They are a guide, calling out to me to follow their daring swoops and agile aerobatics with my own set of wings: my spirit.

So, off I go!

Hope you will come too!