Friday, August 10, 2012

Flying Backwards

This morning a flash of yellow outside my window caught my attention.
It turned out to be the most lovely yellow swallowtail butterfly,
flitting from flower box to flower box, 
sampling the nectar from the impatiens blossoms.
It had been a long time since I'd seen a yellow swallowtail,
identifiable by its vivid yellow wings edged in black.

But then I noticed this butterfly had a companion.
A tiny hummingbird feasted on impatiens as well.
This little hummingbird was primarily gray on head and breast,
but an iridescent green was visible on its back,
so it may have been a female ruby throated.
Her beating wings blurred as she darted from flower to flower.

The beautiful ruby red and emerald feathers
 are just one of the reasons the hummingbird is so irresistible to birdwatchers.
Its tiny size gives it charm, its speed prompts admiration.
I like them for all those reasons,
but most of all I like them because they move through the air with a facility
that acrobats and ballet dancers can only dream of.
It is amazing how the hummingbird zips in and out of a sweet flower,
extracting the syrup in a millisecond;
it hovers, moves up then down, back then forth, to then fro.
Hummingbirds distinguish themselves as the only birds who can fly backwards.
Pretty impressive, they are.
And perhaps otherworldly as well.
Why do I regard the hummingbird as embodying an ethereal quality?
Here's a story:
Some years ago, a hummingbird visited the flowers
outside of my kitchen window with regularity.
But one day, I noticed it hadn't come around for quite awhile.
I looked out the window and rather plaintively said,
"Hummingbird, hummingbird. Where are you?"
Later that day while I washed dishes,
 the hummingbird suddenly flew in front of the window where I stood,
hovered for a moment, and then flew away.
And yes, I would swear that hummingbird looked right at me.

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