Swallows are such small winged creatures that cover enormous distances every year – the utter miracle that is the cycle of nature! They return home to the same place, at virtually the same time every single year. I know this very well as my dear sister keeps a record of these beautiful birds who make their southern summer home on her wide veranda. Give or take a day or two, seldom more than that, they swoop in and resume their residence.
There is an equally fascinating image that pops up on Facebook every now and again, depicting the flight path of a female European Honey Buzzard Bird that was fitted with a tracker system of sorts, allowing the ornithologists to accurately record her migration. It is nothing short of miraculous to see that this feathered creature is capable of covering such a vast distance, over 10 000km in only 42 days! Undoubtedly this incredible journey is mired with dangers too numerous to mention. And yet, like clockwork, she makes the same journey from Finland to South Africa and back again, as the earth tilts on it’s seasonal axis. (Additional fascination is the note by the WildAware post: “Apparently she turned right at the source of the Nile and followed it. I’m still fascinated by the fact that after that deviation she returned to the same longitudinal line she started on and continued until she reached her destination”)
Africa is a riot of rich animal migration, the most famous being that of the wildlife across the Masai Mara plains of Kenya, one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Africa and one of the ten Wonders of the World. Being an African by birth means that I feel something of a connection with this natural phenomenon, despite never having witnessed it first hand. I believe that the best vantage point is from above, preferably in a hot air balloon, gliding silently over the mighty herd… I know that this is an African safari experience reserved mostly for those from a wealthier currency country than our own!
Human migration followed that of the animals, back in the early days of man, where it was safe to assume that people moved according to seasons and food supply.
Another of my work pieces that I found most enlightening on this topic was “Storm Over Europe”. This interesting documentary follows the movement of ancient Germanic tribes from the cold northern climes, to the south in the quest for an easier life away from the harshest of winter conditions and the search for a land capable of feeding such a vast horde. Archaeologist findings result in fairly accurate accounts of 113BC lifestyles, tribal interactions and factions of the Cimbrians and Teutons as they surged southwards as a mass of more than 300,000 warriors, women and children.
These interesting snippets humble me to the extent that I feel like a really teeny-tiny cog in the giant wheel of mankind and the miracle-machine of creation. On reflection, not much has changed over the eons, apart from the sophistication and speed of our migrations: it is all still seasonal and cyclical in many respects.
Returning to our roots is what we aim to do on an annual basis, as an ideal, in order to be able to be in physical contact with our beloved mothers, family members and dear friends too. Long may this annual migration last – we are, essentially all homing pigeons, equipped with a “tracking device”!
It is this magnetic pull that one feels for one’s home-home that the tiny swallows must feel and which is embedded in their DNA. For me, my home-home is wherever I am with my Darling husband, a space for our precious daughters and a refuge for anyone needing a bit of homely hospitality. That being said, I know that the old adage about the “heat and dust of Africa being embedded in one’s soul” certainly resonates but I am happy to store that piece of DNA in my bulging memory bank and to migrate on to wherever the next adventure on this planet leads us. But for now, we look forward to our migration south to African summer sunshine and the warmth of family and familiarity.