i wandered lonely as a cloud

When my mom visited a few years ago, she called me out on the balcony to ask about the group of black and white birds that begin circling, screeching, and swooping around 7:30 p.m. every evening without fail.

I still don’t know what kind of birds they are (neither does P despite knowing about a lot of wildlife), but every time I hear their cries start up I think of my mom and many warm memories of when we bummed around southern Italy with nary a word of Italian between us. We’ve always been close, but during that trip I learned that nothing can bring two people closer than trying to decipher Italian road signs and strange hours of business.

The other night I glanced outside when the screeching reached its highest levels, and I found an amazing sky through my balcony doors.

At first glance, I thought this looked like a bird with wings above its head, flying to the right; then it seemed like it was flying to the left. Now I think it looks like two birds joined in the middle. What do you think?

The sky’s gorgeous coloring only lasted a few minutes, but luckily I snapped a few more photos.

In the last photo, you can see one of the birds quite clearly, but in the middle two, they appear only as grey streaks–they move that quickly. It’s really quite a spectacle, and I’m lucky that I get to see it every evening.

Just goes to show you that sometimes in order to catch a great moment all you need to do is stop, listen, and look up.



26 Beans of Wisdom to “i wandered lonely as a cloud”
  1. cheeky

    Aren’t moms great? I love my mom so much and I cherish all the great places we have experienced together and the memories, like you. Nothing like it!
    Wondering also what type of birds are they? Will be interesting to find out.

  2. Laurie

    sognatrice, could they be my most favorite….rondine….swallows….??? Here in Torino they swoop and holler with joy high in the sky all summer long…. they make a most wonderful racket! Their arrival every year has become a special moment for me!

  3. JennDZ - The Leftover Queen

    Those clouds are beautiful! I feel like nice sunsets are a wonderful gift given to us by the universe! Roberto it seems is always taking pictures of clouds!

  4. sognatrice

    Cheeky, I’m right there with you on the moms and memories…about the birds….

    Laurie, you know, I think they just might be some type of swallow. I just asked P again, and he only knows what they’re called in dialect, so I’ve been trying to find some photos on the Internet; nothing is looking exactly the same, but I’m sure that’s what they must be. Thanks!

  5. sognatrice

    Jenn, I’ve found myself taking more and more cloud photos–makes perfect sense since I like to stare at them so much live πŸ™‚

  6. Anonymous

    i’m thinking they could be swallows too! When i was in siracusa there were swarms of them, flying the most amazing formations and swooping all over the show, chattering like crazy!

    Those clouds look cool! If the post wasn’t so crap i could send you my ‘cloudspotters guide’ to check out their meaning. We has some lovely but diff ones here this evening, v small puffy ones, like mini cotton balls trhoughot the sky. Vanessa

  7. sognatrice

    Vanessa, swallows they are then! Aren’t they just lovely? I think we get the most interesting clouds around here, but I don’t know if that’s because the clouds are so cool or because I’m only starting to notice. If you find anything in that guide, do let me know…sounds fun!

  8. Ally Bean

    Amazing colors in those photos. Glad you looked up. Good advice.

  9. Annika

    In that first photo… I kind of see what you mean about the birds, but to me it looks like a mermaid, swimming down to the right with her arms moved back as she’s pushing the water away to get ahead.

  10. Ninotchka

    I adore this post, especially that last line.

    What a gorgeous sky! You’re lucky indeed. πŸ™‚

  11. Wanderlust Scarlett

    Those shots are so gorgeous.

    The first one looks like a ships anchor to me… if you tilt your head to the left a little…

    …a little more…

    there. Ships anchor, yes?

    Scarlett & Viaggiatore

  12. Lisa Milton

    I’m always dumbstruck by your pictures. Thanks.

  13. Marmite Breath

    What gorgeous sky! And I love your memory of your time with your Mum.

  14. Catherine


  15. my melange

    Those clouds are amazing! Though I love clouds, I must admit I am more of a sucker for the’night sky’. I like seeing all the stars, the moon and some of the planets.

  16. jennifer


  17. KC

    Those are amazing photos! The ‘bird’ in the first one kind of looked like a penguin to me at first. But I also see the two joined birds.

  18. Verilion

    Hi Sognatrice, the birds are either swifts or swallows. They nest high up and never land on the ground. When I lived in Madrid they used to nest in my roof. They are a fantastic sight aren’t they. When they take off they just kind of drop and then swoop up, a bit like the stuntmen of the bird world. Absolutely love the clouds too.

  19. sognatrice

    Ally, I’m glad I looked up too. I’m making a habit of taking at least a few minutes to marvel at the birds every evening–if I catch a nice sky in the process, all the better!

    Annika, I see the mermaid! This is why I love cloudspotting πŸ™‚

    Nino, your comments always mean so much to me knowing that you’re someone who does her fair share of stopping, listening, and looking up.

    Scarlett, yes, an anchor! I’m going to have to post more cloud photos I think. This is fun!

    Lisa, thank YOU!

    MB, glad you enjoyed; Mum times sure are special πŸ™‚

    Catherine, thank you!

    My Melange, I love the night sky too–wish I had a better camera to take photos of it. Another wonderful thing about living here is just how many stars appear on a clear night. Just last night P and I spent much of the late evening stargazing πŸ™‚

    Jennifer, thanks!

    KC, ooh, I definitely see the penguin! Funny how we saw birds and two others saw things related to the sea. Wonder if that means anything?

    Verilion, thank you for the info! I just love the birds, more with each passing day in fact.

  20. judith in Umbria

    I’m with Laurie. I see these at twilight in Rome in numbers that are almost frightening. There’s a whole website dedicated to photos of them and I once linked to it but lost the link in the disaster a while back.

  21. sognatrice

    Judith, I think you’re referring to the NY Times Magazine piece on the Rome’s starlings linked from Darla’s blog? Unfortunately for me, I’ve never gotten the page to load in its entirety, but I don’t think the ones that I see are starlings from photos of starlings I’ve seen. Not a bird expert though either so what do I know?

  22. goodthomas

    I am an old fuddy duddy and my first response was that the cloud look like . . . clouds!!! They are so beautiful all by themselves withoutt trying to find something in them. But. . .

    Then I looked at that first shot and thought, more than two birds, it looked like two winged people flying. And I thought of your post, your words. I thought of you and your mother, joined, soaring, experiencing a journey together.

    Your mom reads this blog, doesn’t she? I bet she is extremely proud of you.

  23. heartinsanfrancisco

    I think it’s a bird flying to the left with a great deal of plumage above and behind. The sort of separate entity below/aft might be the spirit of a human who is being given the ride of a lifetime.

    Or maybe they’re just pretty clouds.

  24. sognatrice

    GT, you know it’s funny with that particular cloud because I wasn’t actually looking for anything. I looked up, out of the balcony doors, and thought, “That looks like a big bird!” Then as I was looking, it kind of changed forms in my mind. All very fun, cloud-watching. I love your take on it all–it’s perfect.

    Heart, agreed, agreed, and agreed πŸ™‚ Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  25. lissa

    Wonderful pictures. Those clouds looks like a dragon to me but it also looks like birds flying or maybe..

    okay, too many things to mention.

  26. sognatrice

    Lissa, welcome! I can see a dragon too…the imagination really gets going when looking at clouds, doesn’t it? I could stare for hours and never run out of images.

Michelle KaminskyMichelle Kaminsky is an American attorney-turned-freelance writer who lived in her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy for 15 years. This blog is now archived. 

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