Monday, May 25, 2015

The Hummingbird

I am fortunate enough to have a hummingbird visit my homestead on what appears to be regular occasions. As I sit on the back patio writing this, he or she stopped to hover a few feet away for a moment before zipping up into the air and around the house on what I imagine to be its search for nectar-bearing flowers.

As the ruby-throated hummingbird is the only species indigenous to this region of Ohio and Michigan, I have become well-acquainted with the female of the species (are they like lionesses and much more active out in the world with business?). Having observed more browns and an iridescent back, as opposed to the dandified blue plumage of a male, I'm convinced that it is she who blesses me with her fleeting presence. Side note: how far we have diverged from birds in that the males are the spectacular of the species, allowed all the vibrancy and intrigue nature has to offer.

What strikes me is my reaction to the presence of the hummingbird: I'm positively elated every time it happens.

Every time.

I know in my heart that what I'm perceiving in that moment of blurred wings is a downright miracle of nature: the hummingbird will be there for a mere moment and then gone. I have only seconds to soak in this perception and let it touch my heart before the bird is gone and I must rely on my dimly lit imaginings and memories to affect my passions. All of life pinpointed to a few seconds of what we call "time". It reminds me of cummings' heart-cracking poem, "I thank You God for most this amazing day," an entire lifetime rendered in terms of a single day. A moment. (Listen to it here, set to music by that polyphonic genius, Eric Whitacre.)

Contrast the hummingbird to the robin, who also visits regularly (it's Michigan's state bird, after all). While the little one is characterized by a blur, the robin positively lingers. I have what feels like minutes to watch the red breast on the fence post as it surveys the acreage around it, zeroes in on a writhing worm in the green grass below and pops down with pinpoint accuracy to fetch the creepy-crawly in its beak. Beyond that, I get to watch them hop around on the ground and tilt their heads side to side (they're focusing their eyes, which are on the sides of their heads) before zooming off into the surrounding oak trees.

How does nature call us into presence in different ways via its exemplars? Do some beauties linger while others come and go in instants? Even the robin flies away all too soon, yet I am grateful that I get to countenance its silhouette on the post or under the tree before it, too, disappears on its errand. The same may be said of the comparatively duller, earthen squirrel, to whom the quick element of air is unavailable, who also busies itself with the industrious to-and-fro of nature.

If I had to astrologically engage in taxonomy, I would put a hummingbird somewhere on the dividing line between Mercury and Venus. The little thing is pure joy, an emissary of Delight that, should we be able to hear the frequency of its wings, would sound like tinkling silver bells and laughter.

Maybe that zone of space touching both Mercury and Venus' orbits would resound with the same tune: clinking glasses of champagne, laughter, and brilliantly amusing conversation.