There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.  So sayeth Proverbs.  I propose an additional maxim (though one far more fallible and less poetical).  There is a way which seemeth right unto a bird, but the end thereof is a window.

I was sitting with my family yesterday.  We don’t plan to sit about in the same room together but such happens quite often and it makes me terribly glad.  It is good to be with them again.  As we sat there chewing our respective cuds and enjoying one another, some precious little green blur decided to alight inside of our living room by way of the large window a-facing our backyard.  My mom cried “Oh no!  The cat will get it! Stop the cat!” and displayed the greatest vitality her face has seen in the last couple of months.  My sister said that it was a hummingbird, and I ran out to the back porch to see if it had been dashed free of its life.

I found the tiny bird lying stunned just beneath the window.  It occurred to me that perhaps one wasn’t supposed to pick up a bird like you weren’t supposed to touch baby mice because their parents would then smell human on their pups and devour them.  I didn’t think this was the case, though, and I went ahead and gently slid the bird onto my finger.  Gently as I could I cupped it into my palm.  She was a tiny thing, no bigger than my thumb.  Her wings and back shone as bright emerald in the Texas sun.  When I turned it just right, the throat lit up in a gold-orange like the setting sun.  A blanket of soft white feathers cushioned its belly against my fingers.  I am perfectly ignorant as to hummingbird sex, but I thought it was a she and I shall stick to that.  She was far too pretty but without anything I could call handsomeness as I would expect in a male.  The poor girl was obviously stunned, breathing slowly and barely moving.  Its left eye blinked slowly as if dazed, but the right stared straight at me.  I suspect she was terrified.  Perhaps being held in the hand of God feels much like that bird felt.

It sat in my palm for nearly ten minutes.  As time wore on, she slowly perked up, eventually standing straight on my finger.  Her heart rate had slowed; she seemed perfectly at peace for all I could tell.  I would have been happy to stand there with her for hours, but my brother decided to blow on her a little, and she immediately took off from my hand.  Her tiny wings beat against my skin more softly than I would have ever imagined.  She rose a few feet into the air but much more slowly than a healthy hummingbird.  Two other hummingbirds quickly swooped down to meet it, and they harried the weak one mercilessly.  My friend lost a bit of her altitude and slipped towards the grass.  The other birds flew off and left her be as she landed softly on the grass.

I suspected she was not all well just yet.  Partly for fear of the cat but mostly because I wanted to hold her again, I slowly walked out to the bird and placed by hand on the grass next to her.  To my inexpressible joy, she fluttered her wings a bit and hopped onto my finger.  Her tiny talons gripped my finger tightly, and she stared straight into my eyes as I lifted her up to the sunlight.  She glowed magnificently; I was perfectly giddy.  I turned her this way and that in the sunlight, admiring as her colors shimmered differently from different angles like a hologram.  Bethany came and stood there with me; her hair is blue, and I thought that the two of them ought to have been friends.  We stood there for ten minutes or so, and it was beautiful.  The hummingbird looked more and more alert with each passing moment.  Soon, she leapt from my finger, soaring off away from the setting sun and alighting on the upper reaches of a birch.

I am rarely embarrassed.  There is only one time in the last few years about which I still feel a tinge of shame.  Last summer I worked at a yacht club, alternatively bussing tables and cooking food.  There was a large, sliding glass wall that separated  the main clubroom from the large dock over the lake, and this was normally left wide open.  After a long night of insomnia, I was at work bussing tables.  Whether simply exhaustion or stupidity, I walked straight into one of those glass panels that was not pushed aside as they normally were.  There were a few moments of shock while I stared dumbly at little flecks of blood on the glass that had leapt from my now split lip.  Too horrified to look for who might have seen me, I quickly scurried to the bathroom to wash my face.  The sympathetic comments from the bartender and the mocking remarks from a few patrons were equally unbearable; I was utterly ashamed of myself.

There is a way which seemeth right unto a bird, but the end thereof is a window.
There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof is a glass panel.

There are some obvious metaphorical extensions of this that might be worthwhile, but it is raining now so I ought to be enjoying it.

Angmód níedfara

Addendum: I have looked it up and it seems that this bird was, in fact, a male.  The orange throat is only found in the males.

  1. #1 by salvageroost on May 2, 2011 - 4:18 pm

    You should keep this piece in mind for Mr. Bahr’s class in the fall. I enjoyed it greatly in its current state, but I think there’s also tremendous potential in here for layers of image and deeper thought. Also, I’m rather jealous that you got to hold a hummingbird. I’ve held baby mockingbirds before–not so exotic, but thrilling enough in their own way.

  2. #2 by Derrick on May 2, 2011 - 8:58 pm

    It was most likely female, if Texas is anything like Florida and most of the hummingbirds you encounter are rubythroats — the males having ruby throats and such.

    • #3 by Angmód on May 5, 2011 - 8:50 am

      As far as I have been able to discern, the males of most hummingbird species around here have the coloured throats and the females have white throats. I do not think it was a rubythroat (though those are the majority around here) unless it was a discoloured one.

  3. #4 by Stephen on May 4, 2011 - 11:01 pm

    An incredibly cool story. I am envious.

  4. #5 by manoahswife on June 25, 2011 - 3:34 pm

    This is a beautiful story. Thank you for giving me such a delightful way to spend a few minutes reading.

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