Mama Hummingbird’s nest is nearly complete—an architectural wonder that’s built of cotton fluff, stringy palm fronds, sticks, seeds, grass clippings and even paint chips, all of which help provide a cushiony, camouflaged home for fragile eggs.
Bit by bit, she ferried these building materials from our flowerbeds and the neighboring hillside, and then stitched everything together with her needle-sharp beak. Note that she’s lashed the nest to the fuschia with spider silk, strong as steel and stretchy enough to hold up to severe weather and her growing hatchlings’ flight simulations.
Flawless in its own right…Beauty that helps offset the ugliness that spilled out of the Oval Office today, betraying the very principles on which our nation was built. #Resist
(a poem from Mary Oliver’s collection, Why I Wake Early)
I see or hear
that more or less
that leaves me
like a needle
in the haystack
It was what I was born for —
to look, to listen,
to lose myself
inside this soft world —
to instruct myself
over and over
Nor am I talking
about the exceptional,
the fearful, the dreadful,
the very extravagant —
but of the ordinary,
the common, the very drab,
the daily presentations.
Oh, good scholar,
I say to myself,
how can you help
but grow wise
with such teachings
as these —
the untrimmable light
of the world,
the ocean’s shine,
the prayers that are made
out of grass?
This is my contribution to the Art Challenge of the Month, Rituals and Routines. Want to join us? The rules are simple: “Draw, paint, photo shoot, embroider, install, write, muse …. any discipline is welcome. Over the weekend of March 18-19, come and announce here that you have posted.”
Whether or not they supported the counter-protest (or read my takeaways from that event), a handful of people expressed real concerns about my having attended the KKK rally in Anaheim. Some talked to me privately; still others confronted me outright. What on earth were you thinking? It seems so out of character, they said.
I disagreed. It’s all of a piece, I said, and I invited them to look a little deeper. I’ll answer those questions here (as often as you’d like…), if you’ll permit me to come at them sideways.
We are multi-faceted beings, every one of us. I’m captivated by Mother Nature’s most exquisite creations, but–and–I also have within my heart an innate desire to cradle “the least of them,” within and beyond my own garden gates.
I watch hummingbirds out my kitchen window every morning, see them wage fierce battles mid-air, iridescent wings shimmering in the afternoon sun as they chase away intruders. Inspired by their courage, I run outside, flailing my arms as I shout, “Shoo! Go away!” to the murder of crows on the neighboring hillside.
I’m swept away by a robin’s song, and I carry within my heart an anthem: Cheer cheer, cheerily, cheer up…change is gonna come.
I twist the lens until the mourning dove comes into focus, and use Lightroom to scrub the poop plops on the fence. It’s more pleasant that way, don’t you think?
When the water shortage deepened, we replaced our backyard sod with drought-friendly flowers, all of which attract butterflies, honeybees, and songbirds. It’s a small space, and our switchover to drip irrigation isn’t going to refill the aquifers. But it helps prevent runoff from polluting our ocean, and it’s more than enough to fill the birdbaths again every morning.
Between the lavender and penstemon, we’ve planted this sign. It’s an honor to be designated as a Monarch Waystation, in recognition of the work we’re doing to help support the earth and her inhabitants. Bare minimum, it’s a conversation piece. Each one, teach one. We learn from each other.
Exactly one week after the KKK rally, I plant milkweed seeds with my little friend Sara. It’s in short supply now, due to overzealous pesticide applications and misguided/misinformed land management practices. The consequences are devastating: Since milkweed’s the sole food source for monarch caterpillars, and the only plant on which monarch butterflies lays its egg, the monarch population has plummeted. We’re doing our part to help save these winged beauties from the threat of extinction.
I know from experience (and the parable of the sower) that the things we sow don’t always take root and grow. Even so, as we tuck tiny seeds into peat pockets, I say a silent benediction: Let hope be renewed, and peace be restored, within our own hearts and the habitats we share. And I remember, then as always, the African proverb: “When you pray, move your feet.”
Long answer made short?
This is how it feels to work together on behalf of something bigger than ourselves–something that has potentially positive effects, on our own lives and that of future generations.
Meet Aryana, the beautiful hummingbird that built her nest in our front yard fuchsia. Here, the stuff of magic: spider silk, cotton batting, and iridescent feathers. Other stories, too, if you examine it closely.
Right before Christmas, Aryana set about building this nest. She pressed nesting materials into the bottom with her tiny feet, and used her torso to help give it a cup-like shape.
It took mama hummingbird ten days to construct her walnut-sized nest. Soon after, two tiny eggs appeared.
I like to think Aryana nests here because Chez Shore is peaceful, and because our gardens are filled with nectar plants and flowers. But the truth is more nuanced, and likely more practical. Instinct no doubt led her (and previous mama hummingbirds) to this very spot because it blends in with the foliage and flowers, and the roof overhang helps shelter her from predators, heavy winds and rain.
It’s not easy to snap photos into that dark corner –and through the kitchen window, at that. But the opportunity to witness firsthand this unfolding wonder, well. The payoff is huge. I’m learning to rely less on my camera’s Auto Mode, to angle the camera just so and wait patiently for her visits.
Earlier this week, Aryana’s babies broke free of their shells.
Wendy hatched on Sunday; Peter showed up on the scene a day later. I only know this because, while she was foraging for food in one of our flowerbeds, I stretched myself across the top rung of a 6-foot ladder and zoomed in.
Click, click. I pressed the shutter button a couple of times, and then clambered down. I never, ever touch Aryana’s hatchlings, never disturb her nesting habits.
“Miracles on a cloud,” someone called Aryana’s newborns. I can’t remember who, or I’d give them credit. But it sounds about right to me–you, too?
I know it won’t surprise you to hear that I love talking about these winged beauties. I point out the nest to visitors, post hatchling updates on Facebook, Instagram and (less often) Twitter. So indulge me a little while longer, please, while I tell you a related story.
When the dishwasher repairman showed up on Monday, he’d already spotted the little hummingbird nest, camouflaged as it is in that dark, leafy corner.
When I expressed surprise; his smile reached from the corner of his mouth to his eyes. “I always pause to pray before I knock on a client’s door,” Mr. Nguyen told me. “I pray for peace. I pray for my client’s happiness, and for my own.” He went on to say that his customers are sometimes very angry when he first arrives: about being inconvenienced; about the news of the day; about the fact that he’s running behind schedule because he’s spent “too much time” helping another customer. “If I find something beautiful in nature before my clients open the door, I am happy. My smile is God’s smile, and that encourages them be happy, too.”
So magical, the ways in which we’re introduced to kindred spirits. New friendships are carried to us on iridescent wings, and nestle into the cushy-soft spaces of our hearts.
I’m excited to share the small but personally meaningful role I played in Pacific Symphany’s eagerly anticipated Beyond Land and Ocean.
In creating this musical homage to Orange County, Composer-in-Residence Narong Prangcharoen drew inspiration from personal encounters with our region’s landscapes and people. He also invited local residents to submit artistic responses to two key questions: What makes Orange County home, and what unites its people?
As the project moved from creative vision to musical composition (a process chronicled here), Prangcharoen harmonized his personal impressions with community members’ input, including mine. The resulting piece makes its world premiere at Orange County’s Segerstrom Concert Hall on Sunday, October 4th.
If you guessed that I wrote a piece about hummingbirds, you’d be right. My submission is featured on the OC in Unison project website, alongside a photograph of Hope. Want to see an excerpt? Click and scroll to the second story from the top.)
Hope, that thing with feathers, is carrying music on her wings.
Want to know more about Hope and ‘my’ backyard hummingbird brood? Click here.
Legends say that hummingbirds float free of time, carrying our hopes for love, joy and celebration. Hummingbirds open our eyes to the wonder of the world and inspire us to open our hearts to loved ones and friends. Like a hummingbird, we aspire to hover and to savor each moment as it passes, embrace all that life has to offer and to celebrate the joy of everyday. The hummingbird’s delicate grace reminds us that life is rich, beauty is everywhere, every personal connection has meaning and that laughter is life’s sweetest creation. —Papyrus
It’s difficult to capture their shimmery wings in flight; harder, still, to frame their magical essence. But when handed the challenge word talisman, hummingbirds came instantly to mind. Take a look at the word cloud to the right of my blog entries–it’s among the most prominent topics of conversation here, by far!
I snapped this photo at a backyard BBQ, last night. It’s not my best hummingbird image to-date, but the wonderful thing about creative challenges is they encourage you to work with what you have, instead of chasing down that elusive (if not impossible) thing we call perfection. (#AugustBreak2015, Day 10)