The Street Where I Live

British by birth, New Yorker by nature.

A Beautiful Article

Books & WordsAlexandra kingComment
baby swift

I'm a super speedy reader, and Isaac always makes fun of me for how fast I get through books. "You can't POSSIBLY have read it properly" he'll say, after I slap the cover down of a 300-pager, five hours in, and declare myself finished. Though I don't always agree, I have started to wonder if maybe, just maybe, he's right about trying to take things more easy, and so recently I've been trying to read slowly and mindfully (a good approach to apply to all things I know- ommmm shanti shanti). It's hard for me though. I'm just an unashamed word glutton, gulping them up, merrily, and with sometimes too careless abandon, like Augustus Gloop and the chocolate river. There are, though, as Nancy Mitford would say, sometimes "currants in the cake", pieces so good, so simple, so profound, that you want to cruise through them as slow as molasses, and then start right back at the beginning again. This piece, by Helen Macdonald in the New York Times magazine this weekend, was exactly that for me. An article that profiles a lady in England named Judith Wakelam who rescues baby swifts. Doesn't  initially sound like a sexy story, huh? You can tell the News Editor knew it, pinning the piece half-heartedly to a more topical hook on wildlife conservation (a la Cecil the Lion, may he rest in peace). But when writing is this beautiful, simple, lyrical, so charged with energy and mystery, so Zinsser-ian (not a word don't care) in its majesty, you forget that the news cycle is even still running.

Some choice sentences that I particularly loved:

"..the birds in front of me resemble a cross between subway mice and a pile of unexpectedly animate kindling. "

"The way that rehabbers talk about what they do evokes in me precisely the feelings I’ve had about rescue animals in my own life: an intoxicating process of coming to know something quite unlike you, to understand it well enough not only to keep it alive but also to put it back, like a puzzle piece, into the gap in the world it left behind."

"It looks like a weird, unearthly creature, a delicate construction of scalloped feathers and ungainly wings: hunched into itself, its miniature claws gripping her fingers, it has deep eyes that look like reflective astronaut visors. I wonder what it can see: lines of magnetic force, perhaps, rising air and flying insects and the suspicion of summer storms. The flat green beneath it has nothing to do with it at all." (This last sentence literally took my breath away)

Anyway, run and read the piece. It's short and fascinating and life affirming. I think you'll love it.