Bonner Day: If hope is here, can hummingbirds be far behind?
The best-laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!”
– Robert Burns
The hopes of cool May turned to hot reality in August. I welcomed three or four hummingbirds in the spring and looked forward to more as the warm weather continued. Alas, the hummers left and were not replaced. The bright red nectar in my feeder needed no refills.
I’m still trying to figure out why the hummers went. The feeder may be designed to ward off other birds, but maybe it did this so well it also repelled the hummers. Was the summer too hot? Did I allow the birdbath to go dry too often?
A climbing vine was planted at the suggestion of a fellow hummer enthusiast. It already has blossoms and I clip and prune it every few days. It doesn’t seem to work.
This month I got a partial reprieve from “hummerlessness.” Just when I had given up on my feeder, a blue hummer appeared. Was it lost, or did the bird’s travels so tire him he needed a rest?
The colorful plumage, primarily blue, indicated to my untrained eye it must be of the male persuasion, though in these times of complicated sexual identity I don’t want to be insensitive. To placate tender sensibilities, let’s label it Questioning, or Q for short.
After one day’s sighting, the blue hummer disappeared. In the Washington suburbs a kinswoman is rich in hummers. Three or four are almost constantly at the feeders. With their nimble flight they fly with impunity around and between the two young cats prowling the bird garden. She has not one but two running fountains, which may be a key.
However, it may be location. To my knowledge, no concentration of hummingbirds is occurring in the valley. A fellow golfer reports the brief visit of a single hummer. And a church member informs me a hummer arrived for a short stay.
Is something wrong with the valley hummer-wise? My scheme to have a company of hummers seems to have melted with the August sun. Are there more attractive places? Did my visitors inspect my yard for easy living and go on to a better place?
When you scheme and prepare to the best of your ability, it is disheartening to fail. It is hope that makes one rise to greet the morning. Hope drives a person to seek a job, to start a business. It is hope that sends one to college. You hope for success, be it hummingbirds or school or career or life itself. If it were not for hope, in fact, life might break your heart.
The pessimist insists you shouldn’t let your hopes rise, but rather tether your life to reality. It is the poets that tempt you with hope. Shakespeare said “True hope is swift and flies with swallow’s wings. Kings it makes gods, and meaner creatures kings.”
So I will ally my heart with those who counsel hope. I will keep my hope in the coming of hummingbirds, even though I am reaching the end of the yard crawl that is my life. This season is gone and the hummers have chosen other yards. But I will keep my feeder loaded, the flowering vine trimmed, and the birdbath filled. And if my hopes are rewarded next year, I will be one of Shakespeare’s kings. Are not hummingbirds fit companions for royalty?
Bonner Day has lived in the Valley for 14 years. His love of birds, especially hummingbirds, continues despite disappointments. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.