It didn’t have to be a barn swallow, but it just happened to be. It is said that the barn swallow is the most abundant swallow species in the world, nesting in almost all parts of North America during the summer, and over-wintering in all parts of South America, so I suppose that the odds are against. The barn swallow’s reaction to exhaustion and fear is not surprising for a bird its size–perhaps not surprising for any bird. It seems most true to say that the barn swallow featured in Tempest Williams’ chapter ultimately died from fear. Even once the danger is gone, there is too much adrenaline running through too small a body. I imagine rigor mortis setting in even before the barn swallow stops breathing, the adrenaline prepping the muscles for a tenseness with no relief.
I do wonder about Tempest Williams’ mother, who does not share the same quick release. Perhaps because she has had time to ponder her end she can also live with it. At once, her death is inevitable, but can be delayed for an immeasurable amount of time. I don’t fully understand what hope has done to her psyche, what damage lingers in her knowledge of her inevitable death once faced with hope. But maybe it’s just the time she can inhabit. Although she knows her fate, she also knows there is some time for her to continue with her life. Then perhaps it is simply the case that the “mother reclaims her body, for her own life” instead of dreading the death to come. Instead of preparing her body for death, she devotes it to herself so she can still live.