This spring a pair of hummingbirds decided to make a nest in the rhododendron in our courtyard garden. The courtyard serves as the main entry point for my apartment building, so I was surprised that they had chosen such a busy thoroughfare for their nest, but also grateful as it allowed me to sneak a peek at them every time I walked in and out of the building. I was baffled at the size of the nest - half the size of a large chicken egg - and also intrigued by the beauty of it. No twigs that I could see, just small green leaves patched together. A marvel of engineering.
I never got an opportunity to see the eggs, but could imagine their tiny size hidden deep within that cup of leaves so lovingly crafted by the parents. I am not a birder and couldn't begin to tell you what kind of hummingbirds they were, but in looking at photos on the internet, I think they were broad-tailed hummingbirds. It was always a delight to be surprised by the flash of green of one of the parents flitting by my window. It would make me pause and watch him for a bit before we both moved on.
This brings me to the crux of this post. How often are we surprised by a random bit of joy and delight in our lives? Do we stop for a moment and relish it, or do we move on too quickly? Do we allow ourselves a few moments to truly enjoy that moment? In 2007 acclaimed violinist Joshua Bell was part of an experiment which took place at a Washington D.C. metro station. He played music by Bach, Schubert and other classical composers for 45 minutes during rush hour. The experiment's aim was to see if people stopped and listened. Hardly anyone did. Interestingly enough, every child who walked by pulled against the parent dragging them along because they wanted to stop and listen. Would you risk being late to work to listen to Joshua Bell play the Bach Chaconne in a metro station? I probably would text my boss and say that Joshua Bell was in the metro station and I would be a little late. But, I know who Joshua Bell is - not everyone in that station did and some were unaware that they even walked by someone playing the violin. You need to be aware of the hummingbird outside your window to be able to spend a few moments with him. You need to know a violinist is playing music to stand in a metro station for a few moments and listen to him. That awareness can open you up to all kinds of opportunities for moments of joy and surprise.
Some say that the hummingbird represents joy. Seeing one always makes my heart skip a beat as I watch it hover and move magically in every direction conceivable. And maybe this is why the parents chose the busy walkway of our courtyard garden, much like Joshua Bell chose a busy metro station. If you want to share your medicine or your gifts with the world, you have to go to where the world is. You also have to hope that someone in that busy cross section of life is aware of enough to really see you and spend a few moments enjoying your visit. The poet Billy Collins once laughingly observed that all babies are born with a knowledge of poetry, because the lub-dub of the mother’s heart is in iambic meter. Then, Collins said, life slowly starts to choke the poetry out of us. I don't think life has to choke out the poetry or music or dance out us and it doesn't take any kind of hardening of heart or pushing back to keep it from happening. I think it takes a willingness to breathe and be open to the moment; to be aware. Listen to that violinist. Watch that hummingbird.
The rhododendron has bloomed, the two baby hummingbirds have learned to fly and the nest is now empty. It was such a short gestation period, but I for one appreciate this medicine of joy and loving the moment of now, this wondrous present time, brought forth by the hummingbird family. I look forward to it living in my heart for a good, long while.
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