Atop Hawk Mountain, Pa., 2010

Atop Hawk Mountain, Pa., 2010
Photo by R.E. Berg-Andersson

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Goodbye to Summer

I was recently re-reading one of my favorite books as a child, "The Wind in the Willows." In it, Kenneth Graham writes a conversation between one of the main characters, Rat, and several swallows getting ready to fly south for the winter. He wants them to stay.

'No, you don't understand, naturally,' said the second swallow. 'First, we feel it stirring within us, a sweet unrest; then back come the recollections one by one, like homing pigeons. They flutter through our dreams at night, they fly with us in our wheelings and circlings by day. We hunger to inquire of each other, to compare notes and assure ourselves that it was all really true, as one by one the scents and sounds and names of long-forgotten places come gradually back and beckon to us.'

If I was a bird that saw the signs of summer's end, this is how I'd be thinking.

It has been unusually cool for mid-August, a "taste of autumn," as the weather people say on TV. I like this cooler, dryer weather and so do birds when the winds from the north can give them a boost on the trip south to the warmth of the Gulf coast and central and South America.

Tree swallow (Margo D. Beller)
I would love to pick up and move north or south to endless summer but unlike the swallows I can't. I am anchored where I am by house, spouse and job to pay the bills.

So I watch the birds as I work in the garden at this time of year deadheading the daisies, removing the grow-through rings and pulling weeds. As I work the bird families are actively feeding after weeks when the young were quiet and hidden until they could get around outside the nest. Those that don't leave New Jersey (or whose southbound travels bring them here for the winter) will visit my feeders when it starts getting cold in earnest.

So I can understand how the swallows and other birds feel. But I also know how Rat feels.

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