~ Learning from the Swallow ~
A good part of my childhood was spent in my grandmother’s village, where I grew up believing that the mud nests the swallows built under our eaves brought us good luck. More swallow nests meant better luck. I remember the joy when yet another swallow family would choose to raise its young under my grandmother’s roof.
The swallow was an almost totemic animal for me—a swift, hard-working, cheerful bird, the harbinger of spring. Basically, everything I wasn’t (but wished to be). Over the years, as I moved away from the village to increasingly bigger cities, I saw swallows less often and began to forget their importance.
But just the other day, while walking through a Swiss vineyard, where cheerful birds chased a slow cloud of midges, I glimpsed the tell-tale red flash of a swallow’s neck. I squinted into the sun—and sure enough, there it was, that thing with feathers from my childhood, its forked tail scissoring the air above me. Another moment of blissful abandon and it was gone, leaving me doubled over with longing.
It felt like home, that quick encounter, a home I can only go back to in my memory, because the people and places that made it meaningful once are only alive in my mind—and in my heart, which misses them, deeply. I went back to my new, likely temporary, home and listened to swallow sounds on YouTube, the chirps, whirrs, and warbles filling me with even more longing. I reread the Romanian fairytale I used to love as a child, the one about the girl Randunica who turns into a swallow. I looked at my grandmother’s pictures. I mourned.
Then I started writing this piece. A walk down memory lane, yes. But also an acknowledgement that our past is firmly ensconced within us, a mud nest the swallows of our soul rebuild each spring.
~ Romana Iorga’s bio of sorts ~
I’m a Romanian-American writer living in Lausanne, Switzerland. I was born in Moldova (when it was still part of the Soviet Union–long story), studied language and literature at the University of Bucharest, published two poetry books in Romanian, and moved to the US for love, more poetry, and adventure.
Adventure comes to those who seek it. I graduated from the University of Minnesota with an MFA in creative writing, had two children, hopped around the country for a while, following my husband’s academic career, and settled in Virginia, where I taught English at a magnet school for nearly a decade.
I wrote in the spaces between moves and jobs, while bringing up babies, walking our high-energy dog, teaching, publishing here and there (find some of my published work under Pebbles and Sand)–in other words, while learning how to be myself in a new language and culture. My family’s most recent move brought us to Switzerland, where I’m finally able to focus full-time on my writing.
I’m currently working on a new poetry manuscript, after disowning its earlier versions. I’m also tinkering with a novel whose genre I find hard to pin down. Romantic suspense, I think. A coming-of-age story. Though, most likely, horror. It’s my first lengthy foray into fiction, you see. The cave is dark and full of terrors. Not to mention that my guide is a fickle bat prone to mood swings (see Impetus and Inertia).
This short poem I wrote many years ago may offer I clearer and more succinct insight into my life and work. One of its lines gave this blog its name. Twenty years later, I’m still mapping the nest.
* * *
the nest of the swallow that left
in late fall, burdened
by our sorrows.
a wickerwork of clay and branches,
quivering in the mud.
The shadow of a wing
fallen upon the house.