A Little Bit of Wonder is where I journal about the somewhat roundabout way that I have been working to establish a career and a strong sense of self--I spend a lot of time thinking and writing about "direction" and "identity." I have a Master's Degree in Literature, but I'm no longer working as an English Professor; I'm starting the next step in my life as I work to establish a career as a writer in the non-profit sector.

At my companion blog, Little Wonder's Recommended Reading, you will find reviews for both books and other blogs that I enjoy. The two blogs are inter-linked, so you can access my reviews and reading challenges from the sidebar on the left.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Goodbye, Hummingbird

First came the attack of the spiders.

For weeks this summer, I had little red welts all over my ankles--I hadn't noticed, but teeny little spiders had been nibbling on me while I was sitting out on the balcony, studying hour after hour until the late afternoon sun got too hot. I would discover new bites every day or two, the itching becoming a consistent distraction. Then, insects--perhaps spiders, perhaps not--started eating away at the beautiful leaves of my money tree, which I've been carefully cultivating all summer. I've been so excited that with the extra hours of summer sun and special diet of extra Miracle Grow, my tree has shot up almost a foot over the past few months. See, usually I have a hard time keeping plants alive. I've even killed cacti and bamboo plants--two of the hardiest types of house plants, I'm told.

So, I decided to get even with those little bastards. They were eating me, and eating my plants, after all. I went and bought some insecticide--but while it seems to have stopped whatever was eating away leaf after beautiful leaf of my money tree, it also killed off most of my flowers. My bright little pink and orange blossoms, another proliferating victory of my gardening attempts this summer, all shriveled up. But loosing the flowers themselves isn't the only sad part, though: it means my hummingbird won't come back.

Hummingbirds have always seemed like a bit of a myth to me, and since I'm ornithophobic (afraid of birds--no joke), I've never had a particular desire to see one. Yet, one day while I was reading out on the balcony a month or two ago, a small blur flew up towards my pot of riotous flowers, and hovered there for a few seconds. Startled, I let out a little yell, and it flew off. I sat there, trying to figure out what exactly I had just seen. The was it moved was not languid like a butterfly, yet it definitely hovered, which was unlike a sparrow. And it had been too small to have been another type of bird, and too big to be one of those beautiful, irredescent dragonflies.

I asked my husband Jeremy whether he thought that hummingbirds lived in the suburbs of Washington, DC, and he wasn't sure. But a few days later, I was eating lunch by the window, and the blinds were pulled back so I could see the flower pot clearly. Suddenly, a tiny bird flew up and stuck its beak into the blossoms hanging over the balcony ledge. I was able to watch as it drank from several blossoms, and was now sure it had been a hummingbird. A magical little friend, in a way, since his presence seemed so unlikely.

And when he came again a few days later, while I was sitting on the lounge chair next to the flower pot, I was even more thrilled. I was only two feet away, and this time, I did not make a noise. He looked at me for a moment, and I could clearly see his long little beak, and how quickly his wings were moving. Then, he drank from several flowers again, and I stared at the tiny grayish body, imagining how light his bones must be. I even felt proud--for an ornithiphobic to be more thrilled than frightened by a bird in such close proximity seemed like an accomplishment.

But now, those little red and pink flowers are shriveled, and my big yellow begonias are turning brown as well. The final kicker is that my arch nemesis, the squirrel I have affectionately termed "son of a bitch," has popped the heads off my gerber daisies. The stems still stand tall, but look rather morbid, like headless bodies who have returned from the dead to warn of the impending fall season. I might as well dig up the dying plants, stack up my pots, and be ready for winter.

School is here, so I don't have time to prune and water and mulch my little garden much more, anyway. But it is like saying goodbye to something much larger than just summer when I realize that the hummingbird will not be back any more. Perhaps I shouldn't feel sad--my grandma told me that she's only seen a hummingbird once in her life, and I've seen him three times now, once from quite close. But my heart feels just a little heavier when I look at my headless gerber daisies and the shriveled flowers that once drew the hummingbird to my balcony. Maybe he will come again next summer, though.

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