Swift(ly): August 31

This year, I swore I’d notice the actual moment in August when the swifts, a fixture of the Madrid sky since spring, hightailed it back to Africa. And then, just like I always do, I missed it. One morning, the swifts’ peep and playful tumble met me when I stepped out on our balcony; the next time I thought to think about them, they’d been gone for weeks.

This, then, is how loss works. You have something — and then you don’t. But the slipstream, quicksilver moment when it actually slips through your fingers is impossible to register or measure. Human beings just aren’t hardwired that way. Maybe it would be unbearable, that knowledge that precious things leave us. Or maybe we’re just clueless.

And now, the swifts are gone. They won’t be back until next year. I appreciated them while they were around but now that they’re gone it feels like not enough.

I thought this was just about birds and the change of seasons, tiny, daily things, but it turns out maybe it’s about something else as well. At first I thought that something else was Covid but maybe it’s not.

Loss accrues, in ways big and small that writers far more eloquent than I have laid out.


Today the war that began when my college sophomore was a baby I pushed in a stroller has ended. So much loss in that 20-year meantime, so many 20-year-olds shipped off to Afghanistan, so much business-as-usual.

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