Silver Lining

One good thing about the cold, rainy weather we’ve endured this spring is the bonanza of bugs hatching out of the swampy landscape that in normal years would be dry land. They’re everywhere. What a cornucopia.

Not that I’m particularly fond of insects. On the contrary, I dislike them—intensely.

In this I differ from my 97-year-old aunt. Her idea about bugs is: There is no ugly or bad animal.

“Not even mosquitoes?” I asked her, thinking to trip her up when she told me this philosophy. I mean, who could love a mosquito?

“Well,” she answered, “I don’t like it when they bite me, but if you took the time and trouble to study them, you would see that even mosquitoes are beautiful.”

Since mosquitoes seem to think of me as the chuck wagon on a cattle drive, I have had plenty of time to study them, both in three dimensions and in two (after I squash them). I freely admit I have yet to find their outer—or inner—beauty. So I guess I have a lot further to go on the path toward enlightenment.

On the other hand, mosquitoes are food for swallows, which is great. And yesterday, the swallows were taking full advantage of the smorgasbord laid out by the bugs at the alder grove.  There must have been a couple hundred Barn, Violet-green, Tree, and Northern Rough-winged Swallows zooming around and around the grove, mostly at ground level. I set up my camp stool in their midst, and thus I became a fixture on their endlessly circling carousel.

Tree Swallow about to crack the sound barrier.

It was a wondrous experience to watch these masters of flight swoop by, scooping up insects, never slowing, never colliding, never minding me. Some came so close, I could have reached out a hand and snatched one out of the air. Many gave me a look and a squeak as they passed. I swear one Tree Swallow flew right under my camp stool, but that could have been my imagination. He was on my right for one instant, and on my left the next, and I never saw him pass by. Perhaps he warped space itself. I would not be surprised.