“Consider the hummingbird for a long moment…. Each one visits a thousand flowers a day. They can dive at sixty miles an hour. They can fly backward. They can fly more than five hundred miles without pausing to rest. But when they rest they come close to death: on frigid nights, or when they are starving, they retreat into torpor, their metabolic rate slowing to a fifteenth of their normal sleep rate, their hearts sludging nearly to a halt, barely beating, and if they are not soon warmed, if they do not soon find that which is sweet, their hearts grow cold, and they cease to be… The price of their ambition is a life closer to death; they suffer more heart attacks and aneurysms and ruptures than any other living creature.”
“Every creature on earth has approximately two billion heartbeats to spend in a lifetime. You can spend them slowly, like a tortoise, and live to be two hundred years old, or you can spend them fast, like a hummingbird, and live to be two years old.”
“No living being is without interior liquid motion. We all churn inside.” – Brian Doyle, Joyas Voladoras
I get a bit breathless when I read something as stunning as Joyas Voladoras, and perhaps I share too much of it here. It’s from a collection of essays by Brian Doyle in One Long River Of Song. I’ve been saving it until I saw my first hummingbird of the season, figuring it would be a nice way to mark the occasion. Well, that happened over two days ago, and I’m happy to share the sparkling light of Joyas Voladoras with you now. Welcome back, hummingbirds, I’m glad to see you return to the garden.
I play my part in keeping them from retreating to tupor with as many hummingbird-friendly plants and flowers as I can justify cramming into the sunniest corners of my backyard. And in return they keep me from returning to tupor, if only for this short season. For that I’m grateful, and I keep finding more excuses to add maybe just one more plant. The bees return first, followed by the hummingbirds, and soon the butterflies will return too and the garden will be complete. Or maybe it’s me that will be, or maybe all of us, in this together with our collection of heartbeats thumping to the song of today.
Reading an essay like Joyas Voladoras swings the spotlight onto my own work, and I recognize that I have a ways to go in the writing. But the blog serves as my apprenticeship and I keep putting it out there even if it misses the mark or is welcomed with grateful indifference. I’m silently plotting an escape for my ambitions, one post at a time. Words and structure of sentences are one thing, but weaving sparkling light and magic into those words is another. What makes you breathless as a reader? We all churn inside, don’t we? How do we share that with the world? Bird by bird, today and tomorrow too. There’s enough tupor in the world, we all need a bit more warmth.