As part of our Arachne 5th Anniversary celebrations, we’ve asked all of our authors to come up with a blog, that might have something to do with writing or anniversaries. Some of them responded! This one is from Pippa Gladhill whose work we published in Solstice Shorts: 16 Stories about Time, and Shortest Day, Longest Night
Yes, the whole world is breaking down, and here we all are heading merrily to hell on the hand cart, so, to counter this, let me offer you one small, beautiful reason to be cheerful. A swift. A small, birdy miracle. Not that I believe in miracles but can find no adequate word to describe their extraordinary existence.
They fly solo. What this means is that when the baby swift leaves the nest in the UK it flies – never having done this before – all the way to Southern Africa and then all the way back to the UK the following year, with no-one showing it the way. Seriously how do they do this? I mean I can’t navigate my way out of a signed car park. Or out of a badly written sentence.
A swift weighs, apparently, around 40 grams. It spends its entire life on the wing. Think about that. It sounds like hard work. It mates on the wing, drinks rain water on the wing, catches airborne insects on the wing, uses airborne straw and random airborne leaves for nest-building. It even – I can’t get my head around this – sleeps on the wing. How? How does it do this? The peregrine falcon flies faster whilst diving in a stoop, but in horizontal flight the swift is the fastest flying bird reaching a recorded 69 mph. It is the essence of flight.
This year, the swifts were here, in the south-west, on Friday 5th May. They always turn up on this date. I look out for them, and in the evening, summer has arrived as they wheel and swoop in at the end of their 14, 000 mile return trip. Their screaming calls are the sound of summer itself. I count them. There are, of course, fewer now than twenty years ago, because yes, the world is breaking down and we are too careless as a species to mind about any of this. But this is striking the wrong note here. So, my Arachne writer friends, one small, beautiful reason to be cheerful and one small reason to keep on writing is, each year, the swifts arrive.