A gentle thud caught my attention. This sound was curiously familiar. As a bird lover, I realize immediately when one has been temporarily blinded by the sun’s reflection, causing it to crash into one of the many windows in my home. I rated this sound similar, yet lighter, reminiscent of one human finger placing a single sharp rap on a pane of glass.
I hurried to the kitchen window that wrapped itself around the right back corner of my house, offering a magnificent view of the tree-filled backyard. Scanning the bushes and grass close to the house, I saw nothing out of the ordinary. I rushed down the steps and reached the bottom just as my border collie, Charlie, who had been roused from a nap by the sound, arrived there. We headed in the same direction, stopping at the hydrangea bushes lining the flower bed beneath the window. There, on a single leaf, lay a hummingbird.
I scooped up the tiny bird before Charlie could get the notion to do it himself, and headed back up the stairs into the safety of the house. Charlie remained there for some time, sniffing for the source of the odd smell that lingered in the air.
Once inside, I opened my hand. Cradled there was one of the most spectacular beauties of Mother Nature, tiny and still. The bird’s eyes were shut. It was stunned by the impact, but it was still alive. I saw it breathing, and with one finger pressed lightly against its chest, I felt the rapid beating of its heart.
Sharing the Beauty
To get witnesses to this event, I ran next door, braving the likelihood of having to refuse another invitation to tour my aging neighbor’s beer bottle collection. On the doorbell’s second ring, Marie, the old man’s wife, slowly opened the door. Through the screen, she motioned for me to come inside.
“Thanks, Marie, but no. I want you to come outside to see what I have in my hands.”
“Robert, come here and see what Regina’s got,” Marie hollered back over her shoulder into the cavernous hallways of the house.
Soon Robert appeared, smiling from ear to ear, ready with his invitation for the tour. But Marie spoke up before he could.
“Look,” she said, pointing to the little mass of metallic green feathers.
“Well, would you look at that,” Robert replied. Surprise spread over his face as he saw the tiny bird. He had probably come to greet me with thoughts of familiar things—the weather, how high the grass was growing, and when he’d get around to cutting it. What he found as he opened the screen door to join us on the porch was most likely not in the realm of his imagination. I watched his face as he stepped out into the beautiful spring day. Wrinkles he had borne like badges of honor for all he’d seen during his eighty-five years of life seemed to smooth out in awe of what he now witnessed.
I told them the story and answered their questions as well as I could. When they were satisfied, we all fell silent—a new event in the six years we had known each other.
Content and Appreciative in the Moment
The bird remained still, its eyes closed as both Marie and Robert took turns gently and lovingly stroking its tiny body. Touching the bird allowed each of us to grasp what we were experiencing as real. It was so soft and downy, small and helpless, yet its powerful heartbeat was proof of its tenacity and will to survive.
After a few more minutes, I told my neighbors goodbye. I felt such a connection with them for sharing the experience with me. But now, something called me to be alone with the little bird. I returned to my front porch and got comfortable in one of the chairs.
I was reluctant to leave it alone, fearing it would become prey to a wandering cat. It was beautiful, small, vulnerable, and yet it displayed a magnificently strong design in such a petite package. I was torn between wanting to keep it and praying for its full recovery.
It was a male ruby-throated, the widest ranging of all North American hummingbirds. I remember as a child growing up in South Texas, they were constant visitors throughout the spring and fall. The tiny bird was common in Central Alabama, too. I often watched three or four competing at my feeder. Almost invisible, they dove, darted, and dive-bombed, and somehow miraculously avoided colliding with each other.
Sitting on the porch holding the bird, I was content. I had witnessed hummingbirds so many times, but never this close. Their wings beat so fast they often seemed more make-believe than real. A blur of color flitting from here to there so quickly my eyes could not follow. Nevertheless, here one was, real and still in the palm of my hand. I was able to study up close the way its little clawed feet curled slightly, and the way its perfectly uniform feathers covered its small body. The vibrant, iridescent colors of its wings and throat were truly amazing.
The Magic of Grace
We sat together for several more minutes. With each moment, I wondered if it was going to make it. Tenderly I stroked its chest, watched, and waited.
Suddenly it woke up. Flipping up from its side, it sprang to life. It hesitated for a split second, seeming to gather its bearings. Then it was off, propelled rapidly upward by its awakening. As it cleared the porch, it made a half-circle and returned to where I was sitting. It hovered in front of me, about two feet from my chair, and remained for what seemed a full minute. Keeping its eyes on me, it stayed back, yet was close enough that I could feel a slight breeze from the rapid beating of its wings. As it looked at me, I thought surely it was saying thanks for plucking it off the leaf and keeping it safe for the past half-hour.
I will not know exactly what the tiny bird was thinking as it made one final circle above my head and flew away. Later I found some feathers on the porch that must have fallen from its wing or tail. They weren’t green like its body, or red like its throat, but white and black and gray. Today I still have those feathers in a very special bowl.
The Gifts of Nature and the Hummingbird’s Visit
Holding the hummingbird was a gift. It was an opportunity that taught me to value the things I love, to cherish each moment, and to courageously get back up when life throws a punch. It was an awesome privilege to be given thirty unforgettable minutes when time stood still and I held the most exquisite creature in my hands, felt its warmth, and marveled at its magnificence.
I have always loved life in all its wonderful forms. I was not the little girl who disliked frogs, snakes, or the curious snail that found a bit of sandwich I had left for the birds. I grew up in love with the splendid variety of life on our beautiful planet, from flowers and trees to lizards and insects to mammals and water creatures. Growing up surrounded by such beauty helped me value the connections among all living things.
The peaceful present bond I feel when I sink my toes into the grass, hang upside down from a low-hanging tree branch, or watch a squirrel stealing seed from my bird feeder makes my heart sing. Each day my passion for the natural world grows stronger, as do my efforts to actively protect it.
You and I are only a single part of life on Earth. When leading with our heart we recognize the value of the wisdom of Chief Seattle:
Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things are connected.
Our joy and peace are largely dependent upon appreciating our connection to other forms of life. It is healthy for us to regularly spend time in the natural world and to grow in appreciation for our outdoor home. Caring for other people and our natural world is one of the most important heart responsibilities we have.
MEDITATIONS AND EXERCISES
Sit down in a quiet place and write down your answers to these questions:
- Where are some of your favorite places in the natural world?
- What do you do to help protect our Earth and other forms of life? Make a list.
- What emotions come up when you watch animals play, a sun set, a hummingbird drink from a flower, or a butterfly float on the breeze?
- In your everyday comings and goings, are you aware of insects, animals, and the natural world?
Here is an exercise that will help you connect to nature and all of life:
Devote a part of each day to quietly immersing yourself in the natural world. Allow your mind to become quiet. Let the magnificence of the natural world expand your heart, because what you cherish, you love. What you love, you respect. What you respect, you will protect.
The next time you are alone in your garden, on a hike in the woods, or elsewhere in the natural world, notice your breathing. Notice the muscles in your neck, your chest, your arms, and your legs. What are your thoughts?
How do they differ from your ordinary mind-set? How does the natural world affect you? How are you connected to your surroundings?
©2014 by Regina Cates. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted with permission of the publisher,
Hierophant Publishing. www.hierophantpublishing.com
About the Author
Regina Cates is the co-founder of Romancing Your Soul, and her Romancing Your Soul Facebook page has over 150,000 engaged followers. Regina conducts workshops, teleclasses and one-on-one sessions to help people uncover love and meaningfulness in their lives. She lives in Los Angeles, CA. Visit her website at: romancingyoursoul.com
Watch a video: Drop The Comparison and Competition (with Regina Cates)