We call it the Gathering, the fall migration of our barn swallows. They sit on the power lines, sway in the breeze, and seem to count their numbers before leaving.
They’ve abandoned their nests; the young have followed them into the sky. Now they wait until everyone shows up.
Who is missing? Are they counting heads? Or are they looking for the youngest to strengthen? Do they wait on the weather?
They begin their gather at the end of August, filling the lines until it curves down into a half-smile.
We hurried them along this year. When our barn began to lean, we knew its days were numbered. Built in 1918, it had served its purpose and did not owe us a dime. Better to put it down gently, lovingly than let it fall in pain, piece by piece.
We dropped it and the barn swallows immediately began their Gathering.
And then, one day we woke, and the barn swallows were gone.