A glass of wine, a magazine and the porch swing in warm weather, back against a pillow, wind chimes and hummingbirds. This is my definition of heaven.
I don't remember seeing them when I was a child, even though I grew up on a small farm in the Ozark hills where hummingbirds are plentiful. You might think I would have seen at least one during my eighteen years on that farm, but I never did. I remember seeing documentaries about them on TV and wishing I could see one. I looked for them wherever I went. I sat on the porch for hours at a time watching my grandma's flower beds, hoping. Yet no hummingbird ever appeared. On one occasion I saw a hummingbird moth. I was so excited thinking I had seen one of those magical little creatures that I went running into the house to get Granny. I dragged her by the arm from the kitchen to the porch only to discover what I had seen was only a bug. Although it was an extremely fascinating bug, it was still just a bug.
I don't remember the first time I ever saw a hummingbird. You might think, with my fascination for them from childhood, I would have logged such an event permanently into my brain, but I did not. Hummingbirds actually didn't become an integral part of my experience until I moved back to the Ozarks from Nashville, Tennessee in 1997. I didn't move to the same small town where I was born and raised, but I was not far away. I had to be close enough to look after Granny who was slipping into dementia about half way through her eighties. It was on returning home that I discovered what I had never found in my childhood.
Because I had been away so long and because I came back to a different town than where I was raised, I had to make new friends. In the process of that quest to meet people and socialize, I was invited one afternoon to visit some folks who lived out by the river. By the way, what we call a river around here is more like a large creek. This family had a rustic built modern home with a porch that ran the entire length of the house sitting just above the banks of the river. Along this porch they must have had fifteen or twenty hummingbird feeders, and all the feeders were abuzz with fifteen or twenty hummingbirds each. It was one of the most fascinating and amazing things I have ever seen. The feeders were hung low enough that I could walk up to them, nose level, and stand there watching the birds zoom around my face. They would sit drinking at the feeder six inches from my gaze and barely take notice that I was there. That memory, rest assured, is logged in the banks permanently.
Until that point, hummingbirds had been a scarce experience in my life. I learned on that day that when feeders are hung year after year the birds return to them and bring their young, so the population of visitors gradually builds. The fact that these folks had a location along the river may have contributed to the population as well. I was inspired enough, even though I lived in town, to create a similar porch for myself. I soon bought feeders, and within a very short time I had visitors.
Now my delight over the spring and summer is to sit on my porch having breakfast while hummingbirds play amid the porch posts and have battles with one another like the Star-fighters in the movies. There will always be one who claims a feeder as its own and will stand guard nearby. Any other bird approaching is quickly engaged in a battle for the sweet stuff. During the times they stand guard, I find them posing for my camera. The inflight pictures are a little more difficult to accomplish, but occasionally, I get lucky.
In the late afternoon, especially after a difficult day at work, I delight in laying back against the pillows of my porch swing, glass of wine in hand, to relax while the show goes on around me. In my mind these creatures are among the most beautiful and magical on earth. I regret each autumn having to pack the feeders away for a winter that is always too long. Every winter I miss them and long for their return. One day I hope to live in a place that is warm enough for me to see them all year round. Until then, I watch for spring and the return of my birds like a child anticipating Christmas. There may be many wonderful, exotic and beautiful places on earth where the living is good, but until they have hummingbirds. I’m not going.