I love this quote. So before writing this post I researched the origin of it.
In its entirety, it’s this:
One swallow does not a summer make, nor one fine day; similarly one day or brief time of happiness does not make a person entirely happy.Aristotle (384BC – 322BC)
He might have said it one fine day in early summer, not trusting that the good weather had truly arrived and was going to stay.
But maybe not.
In any case, I love it.
My swallow tattoo
You may not know it, but back in the mid 80s when I was 19 years old, I got myself a tattoo. I was young and rebellious, and thought that a tattoo would suit me. So I took myself off to the tattooist and looked through his art, looking for the perfect piece.
I was a young, poor, single mother at the time, so I decided on the cheapest one in the shop. There was no choice, I couldn’t afford anything else.
And the cheapest one was a swallow. I paid $20 (Australian) for it.
It looks something like this, but in colour.
It was beautiful! So colourful! And such a rebellious act (at the time)! Of course these days every man and his dog have tattoos, so it’s not rebellious anymore. I actually feel more rebellious by not having more than one tattoo, when I look at people around me who are covered in them.
Well, I don’t try to keep up with fashion, even in tattoos. My once beautifully coloured swallow tattoo is now old and faded. I won’t have it re-coloured to bring it back to life – I will keep it as it is, and watch it age along with me.
But over the years, this swallow has become a symbol of freedom for me. Even if I chose it for its price, it was absolutely the right tattoo for me. And so when people ask me what it means to me, my reply is always the same – it’s freedom.
Legend says that for British sailors, a tattoo of a swallow was a sign of their experience. One swallow tattoo meant he had sailed over 5000 nautical miles. Two swallow tattoos meant over 10000 nautical miles. Such distances were rarely achieved in the distant past, so it showed that the sailor was really an expert in his field.
Another legend says that if a sailor has a tattoo of a swallow, it will guarantee his safe return home to his family (because swallows return ‘home’ every year).
In any case, it’s a lovely and very positive tattoo to have.
Swallows in Australia
While swallows are apparently wide-spread in Australia, I don’t ever remember a time when I was able to watch them. I don’t remember seeing them flying around or seeing their nests. Maybe I wasn’t looking hard enough.
Swallows in Bulgaria
When we arrived in Veliko Tarnovo we were looking for a flat to rent. We found one that we liked and when we were signing the contract the owner told us that there were some swallow nests attached to the corners of the windows, and that she could remove them if we wanted to.
Of course we said no, no need to remove them. Let’s live with nature. Of course, there’s a mess at the bottom of the window, as the birds don’t go to the toilet in their nests, they hang their tails over the edge and let their ‘business’ drop below. Onto our window ledge.
Never mind, we can clean it. It’s only bird poo.
And then when we moved into this flat, we discovered the magic of these cute little birds.
Every evening as the sun started going down, they would all fly around just in front of our balcony, catching insects. They catch their food while flying! It’s amazing because they fly so fast, it’s incredible that they can see the insects in the air well enough to zoom in and eat them.
So we found ourselves standing on our balcony every evening just watching the spectacle. And they’re so cute. They catch insects then fly up to their nests, feeding others in their families who wait inside for dinner.
Then at the end of the feast, when the sun has almost disappeared, they all go inside one last time and then it’s quiet.
They all seem to follow the same schedule, so almost immediately it goes from lots of swallows flying around catching dinner, to zero.
And it all starts again the following evening.
And they’re not only on our windows, but there are several nests on the building across from us, too.
I found half an eggshell on our balcony, so small and fragile. It’s amazing to think that a little bird came out of this so small and alive.
And then one day I found this feather. See how small it is compared with my fingernail!
Occasionally during the day we could see little heads peeking out of the nests. Maybe they were hungry, or maybe they were just talking to their neighbours. They make cute little noises so I guess it’s their way of communicating with each other.
They’ve gone now, off to Africa for the European winter. Or maybe to southern Spain, as I found out that some of them prefer to stay in Europe. We’ll keep their nests on the windows, hoping that our little friends will come back next April.
And I’ve heard that to see the first swallow of the year is regarded as a good omen, so I’ll be keeping my eyes open for them next spring.
Do you have any swallows where you live? Or maybe there’s a different kind of bird in your neighbourhood. Let me know your bird stories in the comments below.