Wednesday, September 10, 2014


Beautiful late summer day, under the pergola.  Life is good.  A lone hummingbird swoops past, startling me. Hummingbirds are rare in my backyard.  A friend says, "Were you thinking of your mom?"

Mom was our family hummingbird fanatic.  She kept legions of them fed and admired for decades.  She made their preferred food--sugar water--herself, adhering to strict rituals of preparation.  She kept their feeders hygienic and full.  She picked up the occasional unfortunate who slammed into a window or another hummingbird, and stroked them with wonder and confidence until they recovered (usually recovered).  She cared for them as physically as she did for everything she loved.  When her kids left home, and after many many years when Dad left her, the hummingbirds were an outlet for some of her passionate energy.  We gave Mom hummingbird trinkets, jewelry, magnets, note cards.  Hummingbirds were part of her symbology, like Jesus and a lamb.

When Mom died, we took down the hummingbird feeders.  Nobody was there to care for them.  Maybe the neighbors who inherited the feeders will put them up in their yard, and fill in the slack.  Probably, the hummingbirds are on their own.  The livin' won't be as easy, but I hope they find enough.

I'm a displaced hummingbird this autumn.  Suddenly my job is not the place I want to be.  Whatever has been filling my feeder has moved on, so to speak.   Instead of the urge to serve and save humankind, I am having a survival kind of epiphany.  Happy is Important.  Mom's death has spotlighted my own mortality in a way I didn't expect. 

When did the choices get so hard, with so much more at stake?
Life gets pretty precious when there's less of it to waste (1).

There are other avenues of finding enough.  Hummingbirds can attest: all good things come to an end, look for the next good thing. 

When I see a hummingbird, I think of Mom.   The hummingbirds will not lay down and die of grief. Their life is their own.  They'll think of something.

1.  Raitt, Bonnie.  "Love in the Nick of Time;" song.