Love is a celebration of unity and a rejoicing in
Again this year, to our delight, two sets of violet-green swallows (Tachycineta thalassina) made a home in our specially crafted nest boxes. The whole process of staking out and defending their territorial rights to the box, to gathering soft materials that hold the precious eggs (generally 4-6 eggs), from the period of quietude when one of the pair keeps vigil with the embryonic treasures, to the last nestling to fledge is a miraculous undertaking of Nature! How privileged—and grateful—we are to witness it each year, because these beautiful swallows are found only in the American West.1
What is perhaps most humbling to watch is the unflagging, dedicated drive of the parents to supply enough food to satisfy those gapping, hungry mouths. Flight after flight, the endless aerial expeditions of insect nabbing are the Homeric effort given by these small, slender songbirds. Their mid-air foraging is grace in motion, matchless in its acrobatic precision and wonder.
A baby waiting for the tasty insects held in the parent’s beak.
The youngsters in the front-garden box fledged earlier than most of the ones in the back garden. Though not an atypical scenario, two of the wee ones—the runts—were behind their more robust siblings in their development because the larger babies managed to get a greater portion of the insects early on. These two took many more days of almost constant feeding before they leaned out the entry hole, taking a wide-eyed look at the larger world, where their sibs had already ventured bravely. After all, “becoming anything worthwhile takes effort,” writes Carolyn Myss. One of the two finally took its leap of faith, joining the family squad that included the swallow group from the front who were still intermittently hanging around the home grounds.
But, until the last young one is ready to fledge and capable of flying freely on its own wing power, the whole family waits. Theirs is a Family Heart lovingly demonstrated in a family contract: When one thrives, we all thrive. When one flies, we all fly. When one falls, we all fall. When we all go, we all go together.
This is much like the great vow of the revered Avalokiteśvara bodhisattva, a Buddha who embodies such supreme compassion that she or he postpones the fullness of their own “Buddhahood” until every sentient being on Earth has passed beyond all illusion, suffering, and rebirth to also attain awakening—the achievement of which is the enlightened state of Nirvāna. Theirs is a Universal Family Heart lovingly demonstrated in a family contract: When we all awaken to our divine nature, we will all go Home together, remembering we always have been and always will be Infinite Beings. All created in Oneness. . .
I received a last, marvelous gift from our back-garden Swallow Family. When the reluctant baby finally gathered enough strength to take its awaited place within the family, after several attempts out of the box (urged on by both families with great vocal encouragement), where it perched uneasily on the wire and the chimney above and then back to the safety of the box, they vanished from our summer’s enjoyment. Their departure as this year’s family group was a little death for us. I was feeling the absence acutely as I looked at the empty box and sky from our back porch. In that exact instant, as though hearing my heart call, the whole family came zooming out from the passageway on the north side of the house. They flew around the garden for a few moments to say good-bye and to give me the blessing of their exquisite presence one more time. And then they were gone. Prayer answered. . . Love’s magic. . .
Total commitment to giving makes receiving automatic—
Cool Facts about the Violet-green Swallow:
• The Violet-green Swallow is very similar to the Tree Swallow, both in appearance and ecology, and their ranges overlap. However, it is more closely related to two other swallows found in the Caribbean: the Golden and Bahama swallows.
• A pair of Violet-green Swallows was observed assisting a pair of Western Bluebirds in raising young. The swallows guarded the nest and tended the bluebird nestlings, and after the bluebirds fledged, the swallows used the nest site for their own young.2
1. http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Violet green_Swallow/lifehistory#at_habitat
Text © by Zane Maser, 2012. Photo of baby swallow in its nest box © by Chris Maser, 2012. All other photos from WikiCommons. All rights reserved worldwide.
My editorial guru and technological wizard is Chris Maser, my delightful husband.
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