The miracle of the "Swallows" of Capistrano takes place each year at the Mission of San Juan Capistano, on March 19th, St.Joseph's Day. As the little birds wing their way back to the most famous Mission in California, the village of San Juan Capistrano takes on a fiesta air and the visitors from all parts of the world, and all walks of life, gather in great numbers to witness the "miracle" of the return of the swallows.
Each year the "Scout Swallows" precede the main flock by a few days and it seems to be their chief duty to clear the way for the main flock to arrive at the "Old Mission" of Capistrano.
With the arrival of early dawn on St. Joseph's Day, the little birds begin to arrive and begin rebuilding their mud nests, which are clinging to the ruins of the old stone church of San Juan Capistrano.
And every September, I find myself circling my academic pursuits once more, my thoughts like scout swallows, looking for viable nesting grounds in familiar places. I've been elsewhere for weeks now. I migrate in the summer. I think while I'm away from school that maybe I don't want to return. But then the end of August comes, and I find myself in the air again.
Too poetic? A bit sappy? Yeah, well the beginning of September is like that. Mothers around the globe mourn over their young, newly (and apparently suddenly) old and ready and expansive -- but these mothers feel proud, too. Pleased. Teary-eyed and pleased. College freshmen don't know whether to laugh or cry at feeling so lost and so ready to be. Harvesters feel buried under good harvests and groan under getting what they wanted the most. There's always a bit of the melancholy in September's excitement, I think, and you don't have to be a mommy to feel it.
So, here comes fall quarter. I'll be reading for a course in The Literature of Resistance this quarter. It makes me afraid to think of, but I want to do it. I've already been forever changed by a course called The Psychology of Transformational Narrative. Nice bookend courses for this degree, I think.
See, my degree is supposed to be about Composing the Human Experience. This is a writing and psychology degree - a literature and philosophy degree - a degree about people and the words they use. To this end, and in some sort of trick of the light (on the path I'm trying to follow), I keep discovering books within courses, but also outside of them. I am acquiring a library of compositions of the human experience.
Books from inside my courses include heavyweights like Pedagogy of the Oppressed and Opening Up have changed my life forever. I wrote a PLA essay for which Sonja Lyubomirsky's The How of Happiness was one of the texts, and this led me to the research being done by Gretchen Rubin for her recent book called The Happiness Project, which has led me to bring home piles and piles of books from the library about happiness research. Most of them aren't worth much. But I am just now finishing one that has glimmers of things I want to use. Little flickers of light. The path twinkles with books like this one. It's called bluebird: women and the new psychology of happiness, by ariel gore.
There is a lot to recommend this book. I take issue with some of her trains of thought, but still ... there is a lot of good stuff in here, all the way through. And now, near the end, I find a quote I must use when I write my senior paper. Because I'm assembling a rock-paper-scissors model of the human being, in which the rock is the human inborn natural self, the paper is the socialized self, and the scissors are the human will ... and because I believe that the thing that defines the human being as unique in the world of critters is that "humans choose" ... this quote from a holocaust survivor is a little nugget of pure light for me.
Do you know him? Have you heard of Viktor Frankl? His book, Man's Search for Meaning, chronicles his experiences as a concentration camp inmate - not exactly light, attractive, bedtime reading, right? But look at the conclusion he finds:
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms - to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way.
Yes, I'm ready for school to start again. Rebuilding my mud nest. Composing my own human experience. Using my scissors to shape the paper that covers my rock. Ready.