Monday, August 22, 2011

Joyful spirits

A pair of hummingbirds visits my garden every day. They show up around the same time each morning when the sun moves across the gap in the canopy of trees that opens the forest floor to the sky. The lilies glow orange and the bee balm flashes rich fuscia and the hummingbirds shimmer green.

I watch from the window as they dart about from bloom to bloom and hover in place. Their bodies dip and dive and flick like fish swimming against a current.

One perches on the auburn center of a freshly opened coneflower and slides its beak along each pale pink petal as though drinking beads of dew. The other sits weightlessly on one of the skinny leaves that ladder up the tall slim stem of a bee balm flower while it sips nectar from another.

Their movements are otherworldly. They are tiny joyful garden spirits; their wings whir about them, smudges of the softest brown. Flowers sway gently at the touch of needle beaks, while the greenery below rustles turbulently and flattens beneath the wash of their wings, like tiny helicopters coming in to land. Soon they are dashing off again into the woods after an occasional peek in at the window.

I am standing amidst the flowers one day taking pictures of the orange wild lilies that hang upside down and curl their petals almost completely around themselves when I hear the deep drone of the hummingbird’s wings. She appears beside me, two feet away. I hold my breath and watch as her long, thin beak disappears into the fluted pink crown of the waning bee balm.

I barely dare to move, angling my camera as best I can. I am granted one picture before she darts up and stares me in the eye for a moment. I can feel the gentle wind from her wings before she zips away amongst the trees and blends in with the leaves.


  1. What a fun encounter! Are those Turk's Cap lilies? If so, they grow down here too! One thing I've noticed about hummingbirds, if you stay outside while they're feeding and flying about, and stand very still and quiet. As they tear about to and fro, chasing away trespassers, etc, I swear I hear a sound like the quick braking of a car as they stop and change direction. Scccreee! Have you ever noticed that? It's funny! Not sure what it is, but I assume it is somehow generated by their flying movements.

  2. I have never heard that screeching sound. Neat. I'm just always so amazed by the volume of the drone they make, like giant bees!

    And I'm not sure about the lilies. I'm just starting to identify different flowers growing around here. I had lots of different lilies this summer in my garden but have yet to put specific names to their faces :)