The hummingbirds are dancing in the backyard.
It doesn’t look as graceful as it sounds. From a distance, their movements are fast and jerky. They seem erratic as they move this way and that but, they pause often, seeming to take stock in the situation and surroundings before darting off again.
Each time one comes to the feeder by the window, I get a chance to appreciate the delicate creature up close. My desk is just on the other side of the window. When one dashes in, my eyes slowly follow him to the feeder. I am careful not to turn my head too quickly and catch myself holding my breath. That’s probably not necessary, but I really don’t want to scare him away. After all, I just observed how much energy is expended in the process of deciding to come over for a drink. Up close, suspended for a long drink of sugar water, the petite bird suddenly seems at rest despite the fact that his wings still beat rapidly. I imagine a stillness at his heart center while movement continues to ripple from every muscle.
At the age of 98, my neighbor, Mrs. Allen, told me that hummingbirds are so territorial that they will not share a feeder. She and I decided that the male who frequented her feeder and the female who came to mine were a mating pair. We wondered where the baby would feed when they hatched. I don’t remember which of us had a bonus visitor that year. I suspect that by the time there was a fledgling, the flowers had bloomed and all of the neighborhood birds were feeding in the flowers of the forest and the gardens instead of at the feeders.
This year, we have three hummingbirds in our backyard. They are the ones dancing right now as they take turns at the feeder. I am imagining that their cooperation is inspired by the wet, late spring. This season has unfolded so slowly that, for a few weeks, I was reminded of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. However, rather than a spring without birdsong, here was a spring without leaf-out, a silhouette spring. That apocalyptic thought sent shivers down my spine every time I noticed that the birds were here but the foliage was not. The hummingbirds have been here for weeks and their natural food sources are lagging behind. The early blooms on the fruit trees are usually almost spent by the end of May. Today, they are just barely beginning to open. To my relief, the winter silhouettes of the trees have finally begun to fill in with bright yellows and greens. Spring is coming. She is just opening herself slowly.
I find myself wondering if the hummingbird’s cooperation at the feeder is a response to the scarcity of resources this season. Watching their dance, it is clear that they are aware of one another and of the shared resource of the feeder. I wonder if humans can learn to respond to scarcity by sharing as well. It makes me smile to imagine the humans with plenty bowing out and dancing to the outer edge, making room for others to acquire life-sustaining resources. Rather than continually striving for more, we can pause and make space before dancing away with the joy of sharing.
What might our world feel like if we learn to pause when we have enough?
What might it feel like if our need was always met by the generosity of others?
I imagine it would feel safe, welcoming, and beautiful. I imagine it is possible.