Friday, September 01, 2006

Noticing the Barn Swallow Ballet

I have a lot of grass to mow—too much. I have planned to fence in some of it so when I’m at the farm full-time I can have livestock and I won’t have as much to mow.

I do like mowing, however. One reason I like mowing is when I start up the mower, it seems like its “all bells alarm” for the barn swallows to go into action. As I mow, I move bugs out of the grass and the barn swallows swoop and dive and eat the bugs they expend much energy—all powered by “bug power,” a great alternative energy source.

Barn swallows are the fighter jets of the bird world. Dark blue, almost black, on the head and back, iridescent in the sunlight; tawny brown on the underside, they miss my head by 1 ½ feet as they harvest bugs and put on a display or aerial ballet only barn swallows can perform.

I have stood in awe of man-made fighter jets in my Air Force experience on flight lines with exotic names like Undorn Tiachung and Utaipao but no flight is as beautiful as barn swallows eating bugs in Winfield Township.

The 20 or so barn swallows live in the pole building and I don’t bother them and they seem to trust me. Do they come to the same place each year? I wonder if they are descendants of the barn swallows who nested in the old dairy barn when I was a kid. Their nests were 2 feet above my head in the alley of the dairy barn; I never hurt or disturbed them. If they are descendants, they have paid me back by being the most efficient bug harvesters and do it with beauty and aplomb. The aerial display an only be described as spectacular.

Today as I was mowing, bugs rose around the mower. I looked ahead to see two barn swallows flying towards me at eye level, full after-burners, only peeling off, one on each side to miss my head by 18 inches. Their aerodynamically designed bodies, perfect for what only God designed them to do. I saw the dark blue and black bodies with a tawny underside flash by as they rolled right and left just missing my head.

When I was younger, I didn’t notice these things—free things, beautiful inspiring things in my presence. I call these things the “margins of life.” We need to live there more often enjoying the beauty of flight, the ballet of the barn swallows, and all this powered by bugs. Jesus said in Matthew 6:25-26: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not more valuable then they?”

He notices and provides for them. What a privilege to notice their beauty and grace. Thank you Lord for another reminder. Thank you Lord for your provision.

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