Thursday, August 14, 2014

Baby Barn Swallows and My Fragile Heart

Every spring I look forward to the nest building fury of tiny barn swallows building their nest high above my front door. It might be my inner Californian that is feeling wistful for the San Juan Capistrano swallows, or it could be hope that I sense for the birds as they build their nest and anticipate their brood. Either way, I get emotionally attached to the birds and the goings on above my door.

Swallows are really adorable little birds. They are agile and fun to watch fly. They bring the benefit of eating lots of the bugs that like to hang around the threshold of our home. We watch them build their nest so very high on a little bitty ledge that is tucked into the roof line of our two story house. And every year they come right back to where they left off.

Unfortunately they are messy. My porch ends up covered in bird poop. It's gross. They also tend to go a little overboard when building their nests. They build that thing with everything they find! Truly I have seen bits of diaper debris that was surely left by a naughty yellow lab in the backyard in their nest in the front! Many days we would come home to straw and other dried plant materials covering the porch. Whatever nest building materials not woven in are left in a heap on the poop covered porch. Its a pretty mucky mess.

But, oh, as we hear those first chirps! Those little guys hatch and my heart fills with excitement - and dread. I am thrilled for new life. I have hope that they grow, gain feathers, and at some harrowing point, spread their wings and fly out of that crazy nest. I love hearing little chirps as I walk in and out of my front door. Then it happens. And I can't take it. It isn't good for my heart. At least once a summer I find a baby bird with immature wings, barely feathered, and still a somewhat bald little head, dead. I open my front door and as I go to step out all my air gets sucked in with one swift breath. No. And I can't help it. The tears sting my eyes.

This year during swallow season around the same time as my baby bird tragedy, I had one of my foster baby birds leave my nest. Though she was 18 and could legally make the choice for herself, her feathers had not grown in. Her head was still a little bald. And her wings were definitely immature. Yet she left. Too soon. Finding the baby bird on my porch just made my heart ache for my little one who will land too hard. It's not good for my heart. And yet, I won't knock down the swallows nest and I can't seem to stop fostering.

This condition of my heart, it appears to be chronic. 

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