I don’t subscribe to the idea of reincarnation because I don’t like the way it’s said to work. If you are good, you become lighter and float up the preset hierarchy of beings. If you are bad, your evil deeds will burden you and you will sink down the preset hierarchy. This is bogus. It should be more like skeeball. You should get tickets for being good and then get to pick your next incarnation from the highest shelf you can afford. I could go for a scheme like that.
I would choose to come back as a White-Bellied Swift. These birds swarm around Devils Tower in the Spring and Summer. They are specialists in flight with boomerang-shaped wings and sharp, compact tails. They keep the Tower climbing experience real. Finish a hard route feeling all fluffed up and euphoric and one of these little guys will zip past your head, the wind screaming over his feathers, then dive vertically down the wall less than a foot from the rock. No matter how good you feel right then, you will never be as good at what you do as he is at what he does.
This guy is about as close as we humans come to that kind of mastery. He is a rock climbing specialist. As a result, he’s achieved a degree of control and skill that looks a lot like what the Swifts have. Sadly, that’s not for me. I can’t devote myself to rock and since I lack any singular genetic gifts, I’m doomed to mediocrity. I don’t mean to imply that I’m lukewarm on rock climbing. On the contrary, as soon as the snow melts, I’m itching to smell warm granite and feel the crushing embrace of rock shoes on my toes. It’s just that, by the end of summer, I start longing for bleak landscapes, violence and weird new forms of water.
So if I came back as a Swift, I’d probably start watching the vultures soon enough, wishing I could be soaring up high instead of whipping around the Tower like a madman. Maybe I wouldn’t cash in my tickets on swiftdom after all. Perhaps something small and terrestrial, with a bad attitude and a wicked set of teeth…