Kew Gardens, London, one summer.
'This may take all summer. Your hair... I may have to sketch each strand.'
Emma, a jaded war photographer strolling through Kew Gardens, shoots him casually with her Nikkon. Tom, a refugee from himself, claims the right to draw her with one of his 'rescue pencils.' And so the distance between their two solitudes shrinks as they are drawn fleetingly into each other's orbit.
Tom, aka Leonardo, sells ice-cream to tourists and sketches his beloved swifts. Emma is mesmerised by his artist's eye and the gentle beauty of his vision, in which she sees things in an ethereal light forever beyond the capacity of any camera lens to capture.
But the brutality of his past follows him to Kew to be rekindled by a petty gardener and a row over the siting of a rubbish bin, a dispute which escalates when the latter destroys a swift's nest and one of the birds dies.
A monkey puzzle tree gives balance to this allegorical novella in which the swifts show Nature's creative joyful dynamism at and the tree of daggers her cutting static defensiveness, qualities which vie in all of us.