Life is hard.
Scratch that. It isn’t just hard, it’s really downright shitty sometimes.
BeBe died. Just like that, her burgeoning little life is over, despite our best efforts and intentions.
I thought she was doing well, actually, the way she was eating, preening and flapping her wings. But now, looking back over the too-few days we had with her, all I can see is how fluffed up she always was. I had a conure and a budgie for many years (as well as all the chickens and ducks now) and I know that being fluffed up is a bad sign in birds. It’s their way of hiding sickness. BeBe was just so cute and little though, I let myself overlook it.
There’s not really much more to tell about all this. She just wasn’t alive anymore this morning.
The rest of the barn swallows seem to be gone now, too.
In fact, I don’t think I’ve seen any since the day I found BeBe. That day they were like locusts in the air, swirling over the fields and skimming across the yard. Now, the sky is empty. The tree swallows, always the last to leave, are still perching on the power lines, but their rust- and sapphire-colored cousins are gone.
I think maybe none of it is coincidental. BeBe must have been from a late clutch, and neither old nor well enough to migrate with her parents. That’s why no one was watching, feeding or defending her, despite barn swallows being notoriously vigilant and attentive parents.
They must have known, the way animals do. The way we humans cannot.
Well, I tried. I cared and I worried and I tried. Perhaps I gave her a gentler end than what otherwise would have been hers, down on the hot asphalt between the fields. And perhaps that was enough.
She makes her own migration now.
The swallow of summer, cartwheeling through crimson,
Touches the honey-slow river and turning
Returns to the hand stretched from under the eaves –
A boomerang of rejoicing shadow.
– Ted Hughes, from ‘Work and Play’