A brood of baby swallows peeks out of their nest.

This hodgepodge of dried mud and twigs hanging from the eave of our front entryway is the only home they’ve ever known. I sit, watching from inside our house, as the baby birds balance on the edge. The biggest one I’ve named Johnny.

Johnny spreads his wings. During the last half of every summer, the front door of our home is closed to all human visitors. It’s privately reserved for an extended family of swallows that nest here before making their way to Mexico and South America.

If you ever want to visit us during this time of the year, you’ll have to enter through the garage side door. It’s for your safety as well as the birds. They will scold and dive-bomb any kind of intruder. The tenacity and speed of these attacks keep even the gamest squirrel or bluebird from invading the porch. One of our neighbors claimed she received a bloody forehead from just trying to be friendly. Apparently she’d forgotten our seasonal side door policy.

For years, these swallows, with their slender, metallic-blue bodies, have provided us with high-flying entertainment, as well as a free bug-removal service. I recently learned they can eat their body weight in insects each day.

Each autumn, a batch of spotted eggs will break open to reveal new mouths to feed. And in every brood of fledglings, there’s always one who thinks he’s capable of flying before his body is ready.

It’s why I find myself here, face pressed against the window, waiting to see what Johnny does. He looks over the edge again. Then leans out into the emptiness.

Down he plops onto the cement. It happens every time.

Johnny appears uninjured. Well, except for maybe his pride. And his parents don’t seem surprised on their return. They feed and care for him on the ground for a couple days until his wings catch up with his ambition.

Then off Johnny goes, flying around and around the yard before circling back to the nest to push his brothers and sisters out of their cozy digs.

There’s a special place in my heart for this early bird, and his inaugural plummet. I admire Johnny’s total willingness to fall. I also like how he’s quick to get back up, and quick to empower his siblings to take the plunge. Sometimes we need a gentle nudge to help us realize we can fly