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Posts Tagged ‘hummingbirds’


Rescued Hummer, freeing the bird that was stuck in the
shed, photo © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.



This weekend Jim rescued a hummingbird that got stuck in our potting shed. It flew into an open door then couldn’t find its way out. Just as it seemed to be on the verge of exhaustion from flitting this way and that, bumping windows and ceiling, Jim caught the bird and set it free. Jim has a way with hummingbirds.

Up until starting this blog, I never realized how big a role animals play in our daily lives. We’re not the kind of people who I think of when I think about the term “animal lovers” — horse people or dog rescuers — yet we constantly interact with all manner of critters.

Now that we’re outdoors almost every day, we come across crawdads and fish in the ditches, mating mallards that frolick in the irrigated fields (we call one couple “The Ortegas”), and box turtles lumbering about.



    
Box Turtle, nameless turtle found making its way toward the
orchard, photos © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.




I used to love animals as a child. I remember one time walking around the yard with my eyes trained on the grass, looking for any living creature. I came across a dead bird, featherless and scrawny, that had tumbled out of its nest in the sycamore tree. I picked up the bird, cried while I dug a little grave, cried while I lay the little body into the hole, cried as I piled the dirt back over it.

I can see that same, almost unbearable animal love inside my daughters. The way they cry at the cruelty that invariably crops up in nature programs on TV, or how when they’re outside playing they’ll stop in their tracks if they see a dead lizard. They crouch around the body, gently prod to see if they can revive the poor lifeless thing, then get to the work of burying.


     
Dooley Details, waiting with Dooley and Dee at the horse show,
photos © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.



Horses are tricky. They’re so big, and the relationship we humans have with them is really special. That point hit me on Sunday during a community horse show in which Dee and her horse participated.

Dooley is about the most gentle, “unflusterable” one-ton creature you can find. He even makes the hippophobic klutz (i.e., me) look good. Something about his sad eyes or the way he patiently lets Dee flop all over him — you can’t help but fall for him head over heels. 

I watched his graceful giant body lope with my daughter poised just as gracefully atop his back. I truly hold these two, and especially Dee, in awe. A part of me wishes I could move like that, trust like that, have had that kind of mastery over something when I was that young.



 
Good Luck, what Em found the first time she went out to look for four-leaf clovers this spring, photo © 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved



One last tidbit from the weekend. On Saturday my parents had a garage sale. It’s an annual event where the whole neighborhood participates. Throngs of buyers come and walk from house to house looking for deals.

My sister and her friend brought the bulk of items to sell at Mom and Dad’s house. I rummaged through all my stuff and found exactly five things I wanted to get rid of: three pairs of shoes, a black purse, and a lamp. I laid out my five items among my sister’s and her friend’s goods, then set off to see what other neighbors had to offer. Right away I found a mid-century modern chair in chartreuse vinyl, perfect for sitting in a spot of sun and reading. I bought it.

My lamp sold immediately. One woman almost bought one pair of shoes but suddenly ran off to catch her infant son, who was about to walk into a low juniper bush. Three people examined the purse before placing it back with the other items.

At noon, we shut down. We piled everything that didn’t sell back into bags and prepared to haul them off to a neighbor who holds everything for a local charity. Em asked if she could have my black purse.

“Sure,” I told her.

Within minutes of taking possession, Em came running to me with five bills.

“Mom, look!”

In her hand were two $100 American Express travelers cheques and three for $20. Two-hundred sixty dollars worth of travelers cheques that I had misplaced in 2003 after a trip to China and India. Back then I had looked everywhere for the darned things and concluded that they were gone for good. They were the kind that never expire.

Lucky weekend. Lucky, and blessed.




Purple and Green, one recent sunset, photo
© 2008 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.



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A Message for Jim, pen and ink, November 2007, doodle © 2007 by ybonesy. All rights reserved.



The first time it landed on Jim, he said he thought it was his brother David.

David was 15 months younger than Jim. His little buddy, his pal. David died of leukemia when Jim was seven.

No one talked about David’s death then, and Jim doesn’t talk much about it now. But if you meet Jim, you’ll notice a sadness in him. Like when he laughs, he never really gives it all up to laughing.

Yet he gives it up to the hummingbirds.

The first time is 1997. He sits on the front porch while Dee and a friend splash in the wading pool. A hummingbird zips in and around the feeders above Jim’s head, lands on a low branch in the giant catalpa. Jim stands, walks to the tree, reaches his arm toward the bird.

“It flew to my finger, just like that!” He is going on about it over the phone. “Dee held out her finger, too, and the hummingbird hopped from me to her.” He is almost out of breath. This is the most exciting thing that’s happened since Dee said her first words.

I didn’t believe him. Dee told me all about it when I got home from work, but still, I couldn’t see it really happening. If you’ve ever seen a hummingbird stop beating its wings and land in a tree, you’ll know what I mean. You want to shake your head. The idea of those tiny wings not flitting their 80 beats a second — there’s something unnatural about it.

Earilier that same year, Jim found a hummingbird, lifeless, on the floor of his workshop. He figured it got overheated in the skylight trying to get out. He picked up the bird, ran to the house and yelled for me to bring sugar water, quick, in a bowl. He held the tiny limp body cupped in his hands while I held the bowl. He dipped the bird’s beak into the water. “Drink, little bird,” he said in a little bird voice.

After a few dips in the sugar water, the bird’s beak opened then closed, opened then closed. Jim opened his hand. The bird sat, looked around, launched. Whirrrrrrr, into the sky.

“I’m pretty sure it was the same bird,” Jim is telling me the day by the wading pool. “I see,” I say, although I don’t really.

One Saturday the next summer, the hummingbirds fly around our yard like neutron dive bombers. Jim is watering the Spanish Broom; I’m weeding around the Butterfly Bush. A green hummingbird lands on a prickly pear cactus flowering brilliant pink-purple. Jim drops the hose, walks to the cactus, extends his arm. Plop, the hummingbird hops from the plant to Jim. He turns to me, smiles.

My mouth is open.

There are three more hummingbird messengers. Once a hummingbird comes to Jim after landing on the young cottonwood we’ve planted. Another time the hummingbirds hover around a feeder in the lotus before one lands on Jim. The last time is this spring, ten years after the first instance. We are preparing to move.

Jim has his head in the engine of the ’57 Chevy Apache; he is trying to start the thing, which has been dead for a year, so he can drive it to the new place. A hummingbird lands on the hook where the hood latches. Jim looks up, puts out his finger. The hummingbird hops onto him. 

By now this has become almost ordinary, yet I still look on as if I’m witnessing a miracle. Even more extraordinary, Jim moves his hand toward me, I put out my finger and the bird hops onto me. It is tiny, so tiny I can barely feel its weight. I feel its tremble, or maybe that’s mine. Jim says the bird has come to say good-bye.


        


One day last May shortly after we moved, Jim called me on my cell, excited.

“They’re talking about hummingbirds on Native America Calling,” he said. “Should I call?”

Native America Calling is a radio talk show where listeners call in to talk about issues and themes pertinent to American Indians. That day the theme was the importance of the hummingbird to Native cultures.

“Call,” I urged. I had just pulled into work, had a meeting in 20 minutes.

I stayed in my car, tuned in to the public radio station. The host had a panel that day — a well-known artist and a tribal elder. I listened to one caller, then another. I listened as long as I could; Jim didn’t come on.

Later that day, my phone rang. Jim. He told me they eventually put him on the radio. He told them about the many instances where a hummingbird, or several hummingbirds, landed on him. The host asked if he was Native. “No,” Jim told him, “but I was hoping you could help me understand, what is the meaning of these visits?”

The host asked the panelists what they thought. Both said it seemed extraordinary, nothing either one had ever seen. Jim waited. The host told him something silly, like, “They must think you’re sweet.”

“They didn’t believe me,” Jim said to me on the phone, dejected.

“I know,” I told him, “it’s hard to believe if you don’t see it for yourself.”

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