Monday, 2 June 2014

One Summer Doesn't Make A Swallow

The Cuckoos have been calling every morning and evening for most of May; calling for summer to get up off the wet grass where she's been lying and come and play in the fields. She can't seem to decide whether to shake her dew sodden skirts and fill the sky with water or swoop high and low with the swallows and picnic among the buttercups with the bees.

My Granny said it every year .... "one Swallow doesn't make a summer".  They are the first to arrive, these avian acrobats who twitter, squeak and gurgle their way through our summer mornings. They tend to come in dribs and drabs, hence the expression, but by June the nests are built, the eggs are cosily within and some of the first chicks have hatched.  (These pictures of fledglings are from last year.)

These are strange times, governments and big-business don't seem to care at all that they are poisoning our world, killing that wonderful living thing we depend upon for our survival.  I wonder if they have another planet - as yet undiscovered by the rest of us - that they can retreat to when they have ruined this one.  

To be truthful, although I know it's going on, I don't often experience first hand much of the mindless destruction of our natural resources in the little bubble of protected nature that is Dartmoor.  Life generally goes sweetly on, or at least it did until this year.  This year the uncountable numbers of Swallows who used to sit on the wires outside our house are reduced to four.  Yes FOUR!!  I cannot adequately express the sadness I feel as each day I scan the skies in the now seemingly hopeless search for more. 

Swallows are dependent on flying insects for their food - those same flying insects that GMO organisms and blithely sprayed pesticides are killing off as fast as they can.  Swallows are the heralds of an English summer when they arrive here to breed and the surest sign that Autumn is coming when they gather in long chirruping lines on the telephone wires as the nights grow colder.  

They use their aerial acrobatics to attract a mate and if you've ever seen them swooping and swerving through the air, hurtling earthwards and zigzagging low to the ground before hurling themselves skywards again you will know what a thrilling display this can be.  

In Ancient Egyptian mythology the Goddess Isis took the form of a Swallow in order to search for the pieces of Osiris, her dismembered lover.  For me these last Swallows are asking us to re-member, remember what we are, where we live, and what we have to lose if we don't look after it.  To remember that this is our one and only home; if we shut ourselves out, there is nowhere else to be.

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