A Moment to Reflect

1 September 2020

A Moment to Reflect -96

Oh for the wings…

“Even the stork in the sky knows her seasons;

and the turtledove and the swift and the thrush

observe the time of their migration;

but my people do not know the ordinance of the Lord.” Jeremiah 8:7

About a month ago, this poor swallow landed at the front of our house, obviously exhausted and unable to fly any longer. It was so shattered that it allowed me (lying down in the grass) to get up really close with the camera. We left the little bird otherwise undisturbed and we were delighted that it later recovered enough to get back on its way.

Swallows are amazing birds.

In Hardgate and Duntocher where we lived for about 7 years in the early 1980s, there was a farm that I used to visit quite often—it was run by two unmarried sisters. They had a marvellous old barn on the farm, which had a fairly unique design. But what made the barn special for me was that every year swallows would arrive from North Africa and nest in the barn. The amazing thing is that the swallows always arrived on exactly the same date—22nd April (although once when it was a leap year they arrived on the 23rd April.) 

The barn at Duntiglennan Farm

I’m not making this up, by the way.

The arrival of swallows in different parts of Britain is supposed to vary a bit depending on the average temperatures and so on (something to do with the insect population) —but nobody seemed to have told the swallows that came back to breed in Hardgate, because they always arrived on the same day. And I would go up to the farm to watch them coming in. 

I’m sure we’ve all heard the saying: “One swallow doesn’t make a summer!” or variations on that theme. And I’m sure we all know what it means. Just because one good thing happens, it doesn’t mean everything else that follows will be good. (But it’s still a sign of things to come and a promise of better days ahead.)

I think it’s amazing that the birds of the air know when it is time to migrate; even more amazing that they are able to survive such long and arduous journeys; but most amazing of all that they are able to navigate so effectively in all kinds of weather and return each year to the exact same place, and right on time! 

The prophet Jeremiah obviously shared my amazement at the migration of birds, but his admiration of their prowess was counter-balanced by his frustration that human beings were (and I guess they still are) pretty hopeless at finding the right way to go, the right thing to do and the right time to do it.