Aswirl

Out the window I see a flight of swallows, swirling around in a column hundreds of feet high. I suppose they are chasing some small flying bugs caught in the tornado-like updraft, but to me, it looks like they are having fun.

Facebook and the internet are full of animal photos and videos, showing the incredible cuteness of our generally mammalian kin. I enjoy a good sloth, panda or baby anything, and can even relate to the occasional bird rocking out to classical music or playing peek-a-boo. Ducklings get rescued from storm drains or parade in line across pools or roads. Kid goats scamper and bounce across fields or climb up on their parents to bounce, slide and get better perspectives.

I’ve watched tigers and lions cuddling with their mates or cubs, and bears rollicking around in pools or tubs. Baby elephants roil in puddles or need to be rescued from some mud hole by an adult. Puppies and kittens warm our hearts with their curiosity and playfulness.

Our pets understand us and we generally communicate together pretty effectively, even to the point of understanding their stubbornness and fears. We also know that our feelings and behaviors have a strong impact on them. Years ago I asked my girl to marry me over Christmas Eve dinner, and our faithful yellow lab got up, crossed the room and placed her head in my future wife’s lap. Those big brown eyes seemed to implore her to accept. How could she resist?

Late afternoon, sitting in my chair with the sun streaming in the window, I have trouble reading for very long. The dog has collapsed on the floor, the two cats have found perches on a hassock or the sofa or in my lap and I become drowsy. It’s like being around a sleeping baby — the “sleepy bugs” swarm around and make eyelids heavy, slow my heart beat and smother me with glimpses of dreams yet undreamed. Resistance is futile.

Stay at home guidelines — and our own common sense — keep us mostly confined in the house, with occasional masked trips to the store or some appointment. Our listlessness affects our critters, and they become restless and demand assurance from us. Unfortunately, their edginess adds to ours and we all get agitated a little too easily.

I seem to need even more now the small flash of joy that I get from these critters — online and off. The world and our nation are in turmoil, yet the swallows seem unaffected. Daily, I am faced with the chaos of the pandemic, the idiocy of our president, the failure of our democracy, and the emergence of lunatics on a national scale. Daily, I receive dozens of fundraising emails from politicians and groups that accomplish good things and that I intellectually support. But, how much of the outside world should I let in and where ought I spend my time and emotional energy?

I take heed from the cats and the dog. Meow when you need something, bark when you’re excited or scared, and take a nap whenever you get the chance. Or, in my seclusion, I can choose to be a swallow and enjoy swirling above it all.

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