Barn Swallows, a Nostalgic Reminder of Home

Barn Swallow (same)

Barn Swallow (same)

Barn Swallows, a Nostalgic Reminder of Home

by James J. S. Johnson

Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.  For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.  (James 4:14-15).

Luzon Bleeding-heart by Dan

Orni-Theology

As daylight slid slowly into nighttime darkness, one warm summer evening in Sweden, I thought I recognized the sleek silhouettes of swallows, flitting and zooming here and there, like aerial fighter pilots, catching hapless insects in the air.  It was too dark, and they were too fast, to positively confirm them as Barn Swallows, but surely that’s what they were.  Little hatchlings, waiting hungrily in mud-nests nearby, likewise appreciated the aerial insect-grabbing of their caring parents.  The day would come, in time, when the hungry nestlings would do the same for their progeny.

Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) baby by Neal Addy Gallery

Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) baby by Neal Addy Gallery

In Europe one of the common summer migrants is the Swallow (Hirunda rustica), known in America as the Barn Swallow, due to their habit of nesting colonies near the roofs of barns, stables, and other wooden buildings.  Barn swallows are easily recognized by their long tail streamers, narrow and pointed wings, iridescent blue-black upper feather coat, contrasting with a white underside sporting a rusty orange forehead and chin-throat bib.  (The sexes are similar except that the female has shorter tail streamers.)   Like other swallows, the barn swallow is mostly insectivorous, catching bugs on the fly, as it darts and arcs with graceful flight patterns, powered by deep wing-beats.  [See Jürgen Nicolai, Detlef  Singer, & Konrad Wothe, Birds of Britain and Europe (Harper Collins, AD1994; translated by Ian Dawson), page 170.]

One of the most nostalgic folk songs of Scandinavia (especially Sweden) is Hälsa dem därhemma  (“Greet those at Home” – audio and bilingual lyrics at http://treasures2.weebly.com/haumllsa-dem-daumlrhemma.html ), a song about a young sailor aboard a ship, as night falls, homesick for his family and homeland, who sees a flight of migratory swallows.  In song the homesick sailor asks the little swallows (“lilla svala”) to give greetings to “those at home”, including his father, mother, and little brother – and even the green fields that the sailor left behind.  To those of us who have heard it sung, many times and in many places, the emotional recall of days (and homes) gone by pull at our hearts and memories, as we too can think of loved ones we have left behind, one way or another, as we have traveled our life journeys in this busy world.

If swallows could transmit greetings, from us to loved ones now out of reach, what greetings would that be?  The New Testament epistle of James reminds us that we have no control on the day that unfolds us, much less on the many tomorrows that approach our horizons.  But the future is not “up for grabs” – it belongs to God.  It is good to know that our great God sovereignly rules the world — and us therein.

Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.  For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.  (James 4:14-15).

Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) baby by Neal Addy Gallery

Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica) baby by Neal Addy Gallery

Life has many changes.  Homes come and go.  People come and go  —  even loved ones.

But God is always there and He changes not (Malachi 3:6).  And He prepares a place for us, as a permanent and perfect Home, for that day appointed for our Earth-leaving, which is the day of our true Home-going/Home-coming.  And yet, we are already Home, now, if we belong to the Lord Jesus Christ, because God Himself is our permanent home.  What a wonderful privilege it is to be created by Him, redeemed by Him, and to belong to Him (and to His loved ones) now and forever.

It’s okay to be homesick,  —  and to appreciate the migratory swallows that go “home” each year,  — but our true home awaits us, in Christ, and there are many mansions there (John 14:2-3).  Heaven is a prepared place for a prepared people.  ><> JJSJ

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Orni-Theology

Hirundinidae – Swallows, Martins

Birds of the Bible – Swallows

Gospel Message

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4 thoughts on “Barn Swallows, a Nostalgic Reminder of Home

  1. I love Barn Swallows! There are tens of thousands of them right now where I am (the Philippines), most often roosting on the power lines in front of our shopping malls. Most people here have no idea what they are though, much less than they’re here because of migratory season.

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  2. I hadn’t heard of the song before. But sometimes my work takes me to Africa in winter, and I find it strangely comforting to know that the swallows I see there may be the same ones I see at home in the summer.

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  3. Pingback: Birds and African, Asian and European children | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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