When this was written in 2004, I had not yet succeeded in attracting hummingbirds to our garden. It took me for years of faithfully hanging feeders before they finally found me. Now, we welcome them with great joy every year. But what strikes me in rereading this piece is that the fact that longing for what I did not have didn't make me miserable, that even the hope of having it someday made me happy.
BURIED BENEATH THE BROWN
December 6, 2004
I finally put away the last of my hummingbird feeders yesterday -- could have done it sooner, but you just don't know when a last little bird will need a quick energy snack on her frantic flight to catch up with the others who flew south at the proper time, months ago. But there was no little straggler this year, as there has not been in each of the previous years. And there were no prime-time hummingbirds, either, this whole summer. Just the feeders, offering tempting red lips to the sky.
But oh, wait! There was one, shimmering in the air, a pale yellow-green, slowing to find a last feeder hidden among dead brown leaves. And I brushed the leaves away from the openings in the feeder so he could see where to find sweet nectar. And he came closer and drank: long, thirsty sips. He stayed for a long time. Perhaps he was going to stay forever. Look, I said to Q, we have a hummingbird. And Q walked closer, and the little bird stayed so Q could see him. He was not afraid. He's not afraid of us, I said.
Pale yellow-green -- that should have been a clue that this was a dream: the only hummingbirds in the Northeast are the Ruby-Throated, and they do have some iridescent green on them, but their heads are not a pale yellow green, like this one's. This was another hummingbird, a dream hummingbird, the dream hummingbird of my longing.
There was no last feeder buried under brown leaves -- I had gotten them all in, all clean, all ready for next year's great hope. But something is buried under the brown. There is great hope sleeping now, through the winter, hope of new plants, hope of new little people, hope of a new year. Small things are starting now and they will grow. Things that were not will come into our lives, and we won't know what they are until they are here.
I will never forget what my dream hummingbird looked like: his green-yellow head, his black beak, the whirr of his wings. I remember each of my dream birds -- I have dreamed of many. I will always remember the delight and awe with which I first saw him among the dead leaves, the happiness of knowing that I had something for him to eat. Something came to me long after it was reasonable to expect it, and I was ready. I will always remember. I will stay ready for new things. I will not discount them before they have a chance to arrive.