Swallows Wings and Sparrows Falling


Swallows wings and sparrows falling:

a little of what goes on in the psyche of an over-sensitive soul.


I was walking along the road, heading off to the post office with a small parcel to send to my father, when I noticed the swallows over head. To me there is something about the swallow that approaches aesthetic perfection and seeing them in the sky above me brought a sudden and entirely unexpected surge of tears. The angle of the wings, the clarity of the colour against the blue of the sky and the sheer purpose-driven perfection of their flight was all at once impossible to bear. Beauty is sometimes unbearable, because of its fragility, its brief perfection and my own impossible aims to emulate it. I’d have like to have been physically beautiful. In my dreams I sometimes am, but in those dreams, there is always a mirror that tells me the ugly truth.

I chase beauty in many forms: seeking to create it in my own head, either in terms of what I write or in what I feel. Perhaps that’s why I am, for lack of a better term, a bit religious. If I’d been a little less self conscious, I might have become a stalker of beautiful people, gazing at them like impossible works of art. Actor Johnny Depp has eyebrows like swallows wings; the curve and the line of them cut across his face like the wings of the bird cut across the sky. If I’d been a little shallower, I might have believed that this beauty made certain people somehow qualitatively better than others.

When it comes to the books I read, that quality of beauty draws me too. The intense experience of reading prose so smooth and delightful, even in describing both tragedy and horror, that it is not like reading at all but more like living the story, is a rare and wonderful one. There’s not many writers who can do that for me.

But when it comes to daily life, both the visual beauty and the beauty of the world beyond it combine to make it hard for me to leave the house some days. The swallows today made me shed a few tears of over-brimming emotion; a little uncomfortable but nothing drastic. A day or two earlier, something a little different but still avian nearly undid me completely. As I walked home with my dog, she pulled me to the side of the road to show me something. In the gutter, there lay a young hen sparrow. I picked her up and she lay floppy and unresponsive in my hand, her body warm and fluffy and her little feet remained unstiffened. There was no blood and no sign of injury. I breathed on her and stroked her head. Nothing. She was perfect but she was gone.

I took her to the little bed of shrubs near the shops and lay her there. I wasn’t sure if she were dead or just stunned. When I got home I told my husband about it and he told me that sparrows, especially young ones will faint if frightened. Literally, they faint, pass out and become unconscious with fear or alarm.

She might well have been alive,” he said.

There’s a passage in the Gospels (Matthew 10: 29)  where Jesus says about not a single sparrow may fall without the Father knowing and caring about it.

Perhaps it was meant to be that I picked her up from the dangerous place she had fainted in and put her somewhere safe to recover. But it’s my love of beauty that means I haven’t gone back to see if she’s still there. I want her to just have fainted and to have recovered and flown back to her family.

20 thoughts on “Swallows Wings and Sparrows Falling

  1. In all probability, the sparrow probably flew away:)

    One morning when we woke up, we found what looked like a wounded pigeon chick. It couldn’t even hop properly and its wings looked ruffled. We thought it was going to die, but we wanted to try whatever we could – so we gave it some water and a few grains of rice, and of course, we kept Oorvi inside the house. Then left it alone…(because I didn’t want to see it dying)

    After about an hour, we saw it sitting in one of the flowerpots, and when we approached, it flew away:) It was tired – probably like your sparrow.

    I am sure you helped save her life:)



    • I hope so.
      My husband has a real love of sparrows and we have feeders out in the garden for all the birds; we get some slightly unusual ones in at times but nothing rare. The last house we used to get some quite rare birds; but I did once witness a fight between a squirrel and a pheasant over the pecking order….


  2. your writing is heart-breakingly honest – I can relate to your love of beauty in all its fleeting glory. I think that is why I took up painting… I always loved to draw but at some point (it was after seeing the Hilary & Jackie movie about Jaqueline Du Pre) I felt I had to try and capture beauty – and started painting, oil on canvas and preferably people…
    when a picture is done I usually dislike it for weeks because it hardly every comes close to what I saw in my mind… after a while the pictures grow on me again. And very rarely I do come to see in them what I meant to catch in the first place… those are the pictures my mother unerringly chooses to keep at her place … she says it makes her feel like I am there…


    • Thank you.
      This gives me an insight into your heart and mind. Sometimes as well, like with certain photos, our art(be it writing or painting or poetry or whatever) we capture by “accident” what we didn’t see openly while we created but unconsciously we captured without knowing it. This is why often people see or read things in our works that we didn’t know we had put there.
      Your mother sounds like a very special and perceptive lady, like you. How was Salzburg?


  3. just got out my battered copy of “Dorian Grey” – feel like re-reading what Wilde has to say about this…
    I love it when people find things in my work I didn’t actually see before… it gives life to a work of art, I think…

    Salzburg was fun. Small and compact. Have to watch Sound of Music again, see if I can spot some locations…
    They have a bakery right behind the cathedral – not advertised, no signs and still everyone finds their way to it because of the fantastic smell… and what fabulous bread, hmmm!

    You were in Austria in spring, right?


    • In February when the snows were there.. yes. Covered about 2000 km over most of the western side of Austria, back and forth and almost over the Brenner pass into italy.
      I loved Dorian Grey; makes me so sad though. The film was luscious…Mmmmm Ben (Prince Caspian).
      Dear old Oscar….


    • I was there as a ski rep, which sounds adventurous until you realise I did no skiing and unlike usual reps, no drinking either! Basically I was there to see all the resorts and shadow my boss to get to know hoteliers, ski guides, ski companies and the land. It was a very busy time and very tiring.
      All I saw of Salzburg was the airport and have a few fridge magnets.
      I notice you have a book out about Avalon and Marion Zimmer Bradley’s cycle. But in Germany, though I gather it’s in English. Is it going to come out on the English market?


      • Sounds like an exhausting experience, that business trip to Austria… little time to see anything beautiful, I take it

        I have a German publisher, which is why amazon.de … I don’t quite understand why they haven’t made it available on amazon.co.uk or amazon.com yet but I am trying to find out about this…


      • I saw a lot of scenery from the car and so on which was amazing as I almost couldn’t bear to look at it.
        I shall hope the book comes up over here at a little lower price as I am a fan of The Mists of Avalon and would love to read it and my daughter too.
        Can you let us know when/if it does?


  4. We all chase beauty in some form… art, literature, photography, nature, people, animals… perfection in an imperfect world… it is the awareness of the act which is a blessing… so many do not even recognize, let alone appreciate what their senses see or feel for example…

    you do… and it is in that act that your sparrow took flight once more… in some beautiful form… thank you for this beautiful article… you too write beautiful prose which evoke so much from your readers, that is beauty


    • You brought good tears to my eyes here, Enreal, after a difficult day wondering whether it was all worth it. Thank you, for this , because it makes me feel that perhaps it is.
      You write yourself with beauty and more than that, honesty and integrity, without which words are merely pretty and have no substance beyond sugar candy that dissolves in the rain.
      thank you.


  5. Hi Viv,
    Hope you are well. We’ve just returned from Sicily and our little mountain village where the Swifts and the Swallows were abundant. Quite a coincidence you talking about Mists of Avalon as the place we stayed at had some incredible, if not back-shivering, Graal connections … Have just been googling it!!
    Lve B X
    PS. It’s strange what you say about your physical beauty, because when I look at your profile picture I see a very beautiful woman.


    • Thanky you Bethan; my profile pic is a very flattering one taken by a colleague at school who is also a professional photographer
      I am ok, been horrifyingly busy lately and feeling frazzled with it, and am going away on business tomorrow.
      I sent you an email with a post I’d like you to read before I post it; hopefully I can get that done before I leave tomorrow afternoon.
      I almost went to Avalon once….I may write about that night in a post one day.


  6. More people should notice the small instances of beauty in the world. We should all be as aware as you are of the fragility of beauty and do more to protect it. If there were more people like you in the world, Viv, it would be a far better place.

    Thank you for writing about this moment so honestly and touchingly. You are a blessing in yourself.



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