Holding up the Sky
One day an elephant saw a hummingbird lying on its back
with its tiny feet up in the air.
"What are you doing?" asked the elephant.
The hummingbird replied, "I heard that the sky might fall today,
and so I am ready to help hold it up, should it fall.”
The elephant laughed cruelly. “Do you really think,” he said,
"that those tiny feet could help hold up the sky?”
The hummingbird kept his feet up in the air, intent on his purpose,
as he replied,
"Not alone. But each must do what he can. And this is what I can do.”
– A Chinese Folktale
I love hummingbirds! Many moons ago, I happened upon a hummingbird aviary in Arizona (@Sonora Desert Museum) where hundreds of these heavenly creatures hover! Since then, each spring I plant certain flowers in my back yard, intent on attracting these jeweled wonders. Years ago, they came. I watched with wonder. For the past five years - not one. I had nearly given up on their presence, instead forcing myself to be content with the majestic hawk who visits weekly to keep my patio mice-free or the occasional red fox sighting. Walking to Lindberg Park last week, however, I spied one. I stopped in my tracks and watched. Hummingbirds are here - in my ‘hood! Hurray!! I felt like Max in Where the Wild Things Are: “Wild Rumpus Wild Rumpus! Wild Rumpus!” The possibility of hummingbird’s visiting has returned. My waiting and watching renewed.
Every day this week, I was visited by a hummingbird - in my own back yard! Awe. Joy. Wonder. My heart radiated gratitude to this winged wildness. She came to drink from my flowers - not the special nectar in my hummingbird feeder, not the bright red hibiscus, not the red trumpet vine - but the coleus flowers I usually snip off at the suggestion of my landscaper. Flapping her wings 80 times per second in a figure eight configuration, she zoomed so close to my face that I could her the hum of her wings but not capture a photo. The moment expanded and I was in awe! I love how a wild moment makes my soul sing!
When the first city builders chipped away at the wilderness to build this wonderful city, did they know how much we would miss the wild? What are our souls missing living in cities with only glimpses of wilderness? How remarkably wonderful that the wild still sneaks in! Where did this little winged wonder spend last winter? Where is her summer home? What other wildness do I live with that I have not yet seen?
On Sunday, I joined dozens of others biking around town on a Native Garden Tour, thanks to the efforts of grassroots groups like Wild Ones, Sugar Beet and Green Community Connections and other amazing sustainability sisters. There are loving efforts afoot to create a wildlife corridor here - to link wildlife habitats broken up by human development to help reestablish populations of butterflies and bees and hummingbirds. Hummingbirds appear only in the Western Hemisphere. Some of them summer in Chicago. Habitat loss is the number one threat to their survival.
How about providing a home for some Wild Rumpus to take place in your yard? Can you hold up your piece of the sky?