PAINTING THE SWALLOWS: A Short Story

It’s been a moment since I’ve written literary fiction simply for pleasure, as this piece expresses a theme we can all relate to: beginning a new chapter of our lives.


I watch the sun sink into the earth like a ripened orange clinging to the branch of a citrus tree. The sun drags the fading clouds and darkening sky with it into the horizon, as if whispering, ‘I mustn’t leave without you’.

Admittedly, I do not blame the sun for insisting the blue sky and clouds follow it into the depths of the horizon. After all, I too, fear the uncertainty of the beyond.
A swallow dips through the sky, the welcome wave of a familiar friend. All my life I watched the little birds, as I sat upon this grassy knoll overlooking the garden. Beyond, cypress trees line the cobblestone pathway. Beyond, the rolling hills of the countryside. Beyond, perhaps snow-capped mountains, perhaps sparkling seaside, perhaps parched desert, perhaps lush jungles, perhaps vibrant cities, perhaps crumbling ruins. Beyond, a reality which shifts from mood to moment, as certain as the sunset yet as changing as its colors. Beyond, a future painted with uncertainty.

Each evening at dusk, I set my easel and canvas atop this grassy knoll, painting these musings as the sun sinks into the horizon. First I paint the garden, then the cobblestone pathway, then the countryside, and finally, the swallows, flying toward whatever I imagine to linger, beyond. 

In my younger years, I recall the fits and giggles of emotion which overcame me as I painted the swallows. I would raise my brush as if to conduct the slurs and staccatos of their flight like a maestro of a fledgling orchestra, rewarding my musicians with bits of bread clasped between my smooth little thumb and index finger.
Time passed, as it tends to do when we are not paying much attention to its frivolities, and I began to paint my life as a substance rather similar to the way in which birds dip and dive. It was in this hour of my life I was convinced flying was perhaps nothing more than the art of falling with grace.

Contradictory to this sentiment, I knew within my heart the terrible rush of earth to wing, feather to frame, the defiance of gravity itself, was a temporary solution to a permanent problem which plagued us all; the inevitability of falling, the fear of beyond.

With each passing year, I watched the swallows fly. They would arrive in the early spring, as we all do, raised in the sunny shallows of our youthful glee; constructing nests of stick and mud as if their fortresses would somehow defy the indomitable forces of nature. I painted my own nests too; meager handfuls sticks and mud and hopes and dreams, surrounding myself with a barricade of material and emotional armor, in attempt to thwart the onslaught of elements.

Spring faded to the warmth of summer, both everlasting and fleeting in its unassuming magnificence, until the heat of August baked the leaves from the branches and they burned in the fiery gold hues of Autumn.

Now entering the Winter of my life, the tresses of summer brush my cheek like the fading embrace of a star-crossed lover, Spring nothing more than a half-remembered dream lingering on the edge of my mind, Autumn unraveling like a seam in a tapestry I can no longer identify.
Tonight, the final tip of the heavy sun brings the entire sky down with it, imploding upon itself in the intimacy of its own Armageddon. Legend has it, if one is quiet enough, they can hear the sun sizzle as it sinks beneath the horizon.

Nobody claims to have ever heard this sound, yet, painting atop this grassy knoll, in the silence of the garden, I have come to believe perhaps the sun truly does sizzle. Perhaps it shrieks. Perhaps it even sheds a few tears, kisses the sky, and hums a few verses of its favorite hymns- yet it is thought to be silent, for the human condition is partial to hearing with the ear, rather than listening with the soul.

A swallow perches atop my easel, cocking its head, as if to beckon ‘I mustn’t leave without you’.

I knew I would never return to this place. After a lifetime of sunsets upon this grassy knoll, in the sanctity of this garden, it was time to follow the swallow into the horizon. It was time to paint the uncertainty of the beyond.

Flying is nothing more than falling with grace.

So for the first time in my life, I flew.


Some inspiration:


Thanks for reading!

x. Natasha Overin

 

 

 

 

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