Off North Road : Swallows
For a dozen years, the same family has returned from the South to the small house I made for our front yard at Menemsha Pond. Always the first week in May, the first sign of their return was their cartwheeling accelerations over the misty pink budding-out of the swamp maple at the edge of the yard and over our roof and beyond all boundaries, changing direction in a nanosecond, diving toward earth, certain to crash, yet pulling out to reappear a half mile to the south. How they develop the speed is a miracle of genetics. They become celebrants of the rites of spring. Their wedge shape contours carom here, there, and everywhere, as if catapulted on the head of a Wampanoag arrow, always ending on the round lip of their house entry carrying wisps of hay and other dross for bedding, later a beak-full of bugs. We hope their meals are mostly made up of mosquitoes to feed the soon-to-be fledglings learning to fly. Of course, we were not there to see the annual show begin because we had been living in Vineyard Haven for the past six months.
We remember with sadness the season their house disappeared after I destroyed their perch with an unruly ride on my lawn mower. The broken pole lay for the winter on my workbench unattended. Came the first of May that year, our friends returned to circle the very spot from which the perch had been removed and, with a guilty conscience, I went to my shop straightaway and repaired the damage. Our friends moved in the next afternoon. We thought we were forgiven and were glad.
This year, as we prepare for our move back to our year-round home, we're relieved to find the swallows again. Even though we are late for their first events, the swallows are arcing as usual for this month of May, catching mosquitoes and preparing their borning room. I wonder if they had missed our presence. Apparently they trusted we would appear. For the swallows, returning year after year, generation after generation to the same location perpetuates their life cycles, unlike us humankind who often move away from long established home never to return.