'It's a terrible habit,' Jan Sutch Pickard writes, 'putting food into my pocket. This keeps happening: where the midpoint of an Iona Community pilgrimage is marked by welcome flapjack; at beach picnics with my family sharing sandy sandwiches. When I was an Ecumenical Observer, a peace monitor, on the West Bank, I was given flatbread from the taboon - the earth-oven - of my Muslim neighbours; in West Jerusalem, the Women in Black shared cookies at the end of a stressful demonstration; after church in Nablus, Palestinian Christians lingered over coffee: but I'm not good at eating and talking. The morsels go into my pocket - and later become food for the birds.' Swallows at Crianlarich The sleeper shuffles into Crianlarich on a grey morning, eyes not quite open yet.
Stepping onto the platform, I feel air from the hills splash like fresh water in my face and am startled by a world full of wings: swallows swooping round the station, small bodies that jink and dart, over the down platform, past tearoom signs and tubs of late-summer flowers, across lines stretching south to Glasgow, rails running north across Rannoch Moor - dancing as though delighted, maybe with the morning midge-rise, or simply with all that air sending out urgent messages on twitter, low-flying, then looping over and up to gather on wires with fast-beating hearts: a new brood testing their wings in training for the long haul where lines converge on the horizon, connecting with another hemisphere and this in-between place where I've alighted, paused for breath, is where the tired year breathes out and blows them far away - where the young swallows' journey starts.
A Pocket Full of Crumbs by Sutch Pickard, Jan was published by Wild Goose Publications in August 2016. The ISBN for A Pocket Full of Crumbs is 9781849524841.