Author’s Note: The following is a prelude to my upcoming book, Fire on the Wing: Essays for Mountain Living in the New Millennium. During this time of a global pandemic, I think mostly of just how interconnected our world truly is. May it bring a moment of peace and a gentle reminder to support each other, honor our natural world and all the nonhuman animals in it.
Namaste, and thank you for listening.
We Inter-Are with Nature
The wings of the Ruby-throated hummingbird carry in the summer breeze gracing my morning moment. I listen to the front door creak open. My husband walks out the seven feeders to hang around the east and sout
h-facing perimeter of our log home thirteen miles above the gilded City of Boulder. It’s his summer morning ritual.
Just as the day gives way to the evening, he will walk them back inside to spare the Black bears the temptation of an easy meal.
It is five-thirty. A solitary female greets him.
Soon, the remainder will buzz and trill alongside her. For the moment, the solitary female perches on a lone spot on a south-facing feeder. Forty-five vacant spots remain.
These miniscule yet miraculous creations of nature are here this morning because, in the words of my favorite Buddhist Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh, we inter-are. Providing them daily nectar supplements their natural diet of the Purple Aster, Indian Paintbrush, Cinquefoil and Wild Rose wildflowers. It helps them grow strong enough to facilitate reproduction and ensure the continuation of their species. During the Cold Springs Fire of 2016, dozens of hummingbirds appeared in our mountain valley as suddenly as the conflagration erupted a few miles away. For five days we watched choppers carrying buckets of water scooped from Barker Reservoir fill otherwise quiet cerulean skies as avian refugees filled the front porch feeders. Resourceful friends made their way past roadblocks with fifty-pound bags of sugar to aid in the effort to care for all as we sheltered in place.
As the flames dwindled to embers, the tiny avian flock diminished in size, leaving the remaining fifty individuals to return to more spacious porch feeding.
My world is happier for having hummingbirds in it. The giveback to us from them is one of life: They create offspring and nurture them in return for all that nectar. We benefit from knowing we are helping another species survive and thrive into the next generation.
And in mid-September when they depart for Costa Rica, God will pull them across the Gulf of Mexico for two days long and we will store the feeders in our barn until the following April.
For the time the Ruby-throated and few fearless Rufus hummingbirds are here, they pollinate the Columbine and the Coneflowers, the Wild Roses and the Pink Geranium. They hover above the creek snatching mosquito protein above rippling waters. Later, they congregate together for the more intimate purposes of creating more little hummingbirds. All summer long we are privileged to watch them hover, dive, buzz and spar about in close proximity to our home, filling clear blue skies with an energetic presence intrinsic to a Rocky Mountain summer.
We know some of their prosperity depends on our supporting them. As part of our natural living world, we enjoy our inter-being with the hummingbirds. I like to think their happiness is fed by Frank’s homemade nectar. In turn, our happiness is fed by watching their numbers grow.
We inter-are with the Ruby-throated hummingbirds as they inter-are with the Cinquefoil and the Harebell wildlflowers, the mosquitoes and the whole of nature. I think the world is a better place for having hummingbirds in it. At least, mine is.