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Cliff Swallows at work

Cliff Swallows at work on Main Pond.

Cliff Swallows always strike me as the blue-collar members of the swallow clan, that is if swallows wore collars. What I mean is, they are a hard-working, beak-to-the-grindstone kind of bird. While their more hey-go-mad cousins the Tree Swallows wait for a handy woodpecker to dig a hole in a tree for them to use as a nest, the Cliff Swallows make their own. It isn’t easy for them, either. They must gather mud by the tiny beakful, mix it to proper consistency, and carry it back to a flat surface, where they plaster it onto hundreds of other beakfuls of mud, making colonies of nests in row upon row.

Seeing them toil at the mudbank of the Main Pond, like Israelites making bricks for Pharaoh, does not give the impression that Cliff Swallows believe in partying till you drop. So it was with jaw-dropping wonder that I watched one Cliff Swallow the other day break off from his laboring brethren, float up into the ether, and commence executing barrel rolls that would have put the Red Baron to shame. With a casual dip of one wing, he tossed off a roll, flapped a little to gain air-speed, tossed off another roll, squeaked to the chain gang below, and then did it all again.

There is an age when the strong vitality of youth produces such exuberance that you simply must run, or dance, or do a barrel roll.

Has that vitality passed from us baby-boomers? Absolutely not! We may have reached the age when we can’t get up or down without making a noise. We may think twice before bending down to pick up something, and then when we’re down there think about what else we can do before we straighten up again. But inside, we are still eighteen. And inside is where it counts.

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