humming my song
i’ve never thought i’d make the cut.
the hummingbird cut, that is.
the wee things, the size of thimbles, the weight of five extra-strength aspirins, it’s been said, flap-flap-flap their wisps of wings some 2,000 miles, nonstop across the oily gulf of mexico, praise be the thinkin’ birds.
en route from way up north in canada to down in costa rica, the little darlings keep their eyeballs peeled for a comfy place for roadside grazing. if you flapped your wings up to 80 times a second–do the math, that’s 4,800 times a minute, nearly 7 million flaps a day–you too would wanna drop the landing gear, suck up a jug or two of nectar.
and, i’m told, the wee things have braincells that do not forget. should you put out the welcome mat, but then forget to keep the sugar water fresh, those birds will cross you off the list, never forget that your stale waters made their wee, wee bellies ache, and never ever stop again.
you’ll be blackballed by the hummers, i was told in unforgiving terms.
so that made me 1.) worried, and 2.) afraid to even try.
i couldn’t stand the thought of my ol’ house and garden being X’d off in the hummingbird map across america.
so i did the wimpy thing: hoped they’d like my nodding flowers, and left it at that.
oh, i might have caught a glimpse here or there, one popped its nose in the rhododendron a spring or two ago. then maybe, by the black-eyed susans, at the end of some summer, i might have seen another.
but, well, my mama, she’s no chicken. no feeble-heart is she.
she reached right in the cabinet where she keeps her bird supplies and she marched up my walk with the very bright red feeder i’d not long ago given her.
while the feeder itself came in a box, complete with “hummingbird solution,” a mix of this and that that came with darn directions (thus ever raising the bar on whether i could make the cut, could cook up the holy nectar for the passersby), my mama pooh-poohed all that.
said, sugar and water is all you need. change it once a week, even every 10 days. none of this make-it-fresh-before-the-crack-of-dawn-each-day-or-your-birds-will-keel-and-X-you-off.
up she hung the feeder on my tree. and back she stood to watch the hummingbird brigade.
i dared not hope.
but then, out of the corner of my doubting eye, i spotted a large cicada darting through the trees.
or so i thought.
the large cicada, hovering, stuck its nose down the gullet of the pale pink anemone.
and then i realized: that was no cicada.
that was my mama’s promise come to roost.
ever since, it’s been hummingbird haven around here. the little things are darting here and there, practically coming to my nose. they fly forward, backward, up and down.
even the cat has taken to watching all the aerobatics.
and i’ve not yet been scolded by a hummer for letting all the sugar water go sour. or dry.
fact is, i think they’ve taken a shining to my little bird hostel. they’ve been sipping and darting now for nearly two whole weeks.
and i have found my end-of-summer bliss in the watching of their antics. they come so close, they dart so quickly, they seem so downright unafraid, i can nearly imagine the cartoon clouds coming from their little beaks, the bird words spewing, as they chatter back and forth. chase away the big birds. never mind the cat. order up another batch of hummer’s brew.
they are said to be pugnacious, and pugnacious they are. who would think it of a flying thimble?
and i have come to delight in their fearlessness. marvel at it, really. have tried to absorb a drop or two, from their lesson plan: how to rule the world, even if you’re no more imposing than a gardener’s thumb.
i’ve no real clue how long this show will last, before the sun and wind and moon call to the wee ones, beckon them to return to their long flight.
i’m told, though, that the flip side of that brain that won’t forget is that they’ll remember. they’ll come back. these very same winged blessings. they will remember, perhaps, the blue table where i pull up my chair, where i sit beneath the trees, where i keep watch, and whisper sweet thanks.
they will remember the long-necked anemones they drink from. and the bright red feeder my mama hung so boldly, so believingly.
they will be back.
and i’ll be ready. bold and believing, just like the birds who cross the globe, knowing they’ll find sweetness when and where they need it.
i sat down to write this morning but first found word from my beloved little brother that his most beloved golden retriever, max, might not make it through the night. if dawn came, they’d be driving max to the nearest best big city and hoping the vets could work a miracle. i cannot tell you the depth of ache for my brother who has already buried a retriever he loved. and who took years before he was ready to love another so dearly. my little brother had just turned 13 the day my papa died. he was the one who walked in the hospital room as they tried to save my papa. please whisper a prayer for my sweet bri, and for max, the dog who has been his dearest friend these past few years….
heartache comes in so many forms. and all we can do, besides wrap our arms around the ones we love, whisper hope in their ear, is keep prayin’ and loving.
for all the heartaches gathered at this table. and all the moments of rejoicing. amen.
so what life lessons might you have learned from winged things, or dogs that nuzzle up beside you?
and, p.s., in case that photo up above proves to be an optical delusion, there is a wee hummingbird just to the left of the red feeder. see him, pointing his long nose toward the hummer nectar that i cook up? the shadowy little thing in front of the willowy pink anemones?
oh, and in case you too want to cook for aerobatics, it’s simple: 1/4 cup white sugar to 1 cup boiling water. stir sugar till dissolved, let cool (hummers don’t like to burn their two-pronged tongues) then pour into a hummer feeder, or i am sure there is some alternative feeder, just something into which they can stick their long noses…..