Things Held and Let Go

The tree swallows built their nest in early spring. The female waited for her lover at the top of our plum tree, beside the nesting box. He came, carrying the night sky on his back—sleek and graceful in his wide-swooping flight. She met him in the air. Their bodies touched, like a kiss, a moment’s hesitation, slight hover of wing. Then he circled back around—made that wide arc around the yard. Over and over I watched their love play, beside myself with joy. I would count the eggs. I would watch the transformation from pink mounds of lanugo-furred flesh to this: flight acrobats.

The male would visit us as we lingered on the back deck in the slow-cooling air of night. He sat atop my shepherd’s hook—cocked his head to the side as I whispered sweet words to him. His mate peered from a distance, a beautiful, glistening face waiting in the nesting box.

Every day I checked the box. Two weeks: no eggs. The yard was flooded with starlings. They made noisy chatter. They pecked at the nesting box with the missus inside. Soon, my midnight-backed lovers were gone. I waited until the neighboring baby robins fledged—until I heard their high-pitched squeaking under the maple tree. Then, I opened the box and removed the nest: a loose weave of dried grass with five soft, new feathers on top. I held a downy white feather in the palm of my hand.

The wind lifted it and carried it away.


  1. says

    sigh. The whole post, a poem; the lesson, ongoing. Thank you for sharing these moments of wrenching beauty. And for the photo of your hand. I think of Hildegard of Bingen desiring to be “a feather on the breath of God.”

    • says

      Sweet words from a poet, Laurie! Thank you, friend. I think it was Hildegard who spoke of the “greening” power of God–the way the world comes alive in the spring. It makes me come alive too :).

  2. says

    Flight acrobats. Great description. There is something about watching birds. I always get anxious for them when I know they are in the nest building and baby raising stage.

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