Wednesday, December 9, 2015

To hold a hummingbird

Thud. Traveling at an average speed of 30 mph, this little sweetie crashed into my window headfirst Thursday afternoon. Stunned and laying on the cement steps, she breathed, but didn't move. Fearing a predator would get her or that she would become cold laying unprotected in the rain, I realized I had to move her. Choosing the box my Aunt used to send my Christmas presents in this year for a refuge, I picked the tiny hummer up and laid her on a dishcloth to recover. Expecting her to struggle when I reached for her or moved her, I was careful to place her safely in the box before standing up. I didn't want her falling out of my hands and crashing to the steps again. As it turned out, there was nothing to worry about. She hardly seemed to register that human hands cupped her tiny body, and I moved her with ease. Not wanting to put any additional stress on her, I only held her for a moment, but I packed that moment full of love, and a prayer of sorts too. Please, little bird, live. Fly. Please go back to the yard and catch all the insects your little belly can hold. Please, sweet bird, please. 

I snapped two quick pictures pictures and let her be. Only time would tell. 

Twenty minutes later, I went to check on her. She still breathed, but she showed no signs of being able to leave the box or really, even moving. Only her chest rising rapidly, up then down up then down, proved she was alive. She was so small, too- no bigger than my thumb. I didn't notice that before. Briefly, I thought about trying to take a picture that showed, even for a hummingbird, just how small she was, but ultimately thought that a selfish thing to do. I already had two pictures and she was fighting for her life. I couldn't risk alarming her further for a third. Instead, I closed the box, and knowing she was safe, left to run some errands. 

When I returned home a couple of hours later, I went straight to the backyard only stopping to let the beagle out of her crate. Otherwise, the little bird, and for that matter, the entire neighborhood, would have been plagued by incessant barking and howling coming from the living room. I didn't imagine, after flying headfirst into a window at hummingbird speed, that the poor thing needing anything else contributing to what must already have been a very bad headache. So, the beagle and I went to the back together, and as soon as I opened the door, I saw it- a single feather dangling at the opening of the box. She was gone. Once again, she hummed. I hoped to be there when she left, when she soared back to life and flight, but instead, she left me with a different gift- the gift of a feather. A tiny, gray, tree-shaped feather. 

Later that night, my friend, upon hearing the story, said this: That must have been amazing. They're tiny right? And their hearts beat super fast? I can't imagine holding something so fragile, yet so strong. 

I imagined the hummingbird again in my hands, and the questions come easily: what else do I hold that is at once both exceedingly fragile and remarkably strong? Is it the fragility of the thing or its strength that requires more care? And do I truly honor these apparent opposites for the delicate and exquisite paradox that they are? Yeah, the questions come easily. It's the answers that prove difficult.