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Monday Photo Meditation: Hummingbird Skies

Just over a week ago — possibly April first, which would be fitting — I could’ve sworn I heard our first hummingbird.

It’s far too early for them yet; they are birds of warmer winds, and seventy-plus-degree highs notwithstanding, this wind is still capable of cutting t0 the bone. Such tiny spirits need the long hot days of summer to thrive.

And yet . . . and yet, some hardy members of their clan stayed with us long past their usual migration time last year, into the early days of November. It may not yet have been bitter cold, but it was far outside the temperature ranges we have come to expect that these tiniest birds can or will inhabit. Given that, who’s to say that one or more of their kin did not decide on an early return?

It’s unlikely, of course. Even I know that. Still, the sound of their wings is distinctive; not much else can properly be mistaken for it. And now that our unseasonably high temperatures have returned, I find myself listening, when out of doors, even if only with half an ear.

Because when these most diminutive of creatures arrive, we can be sure, finally, of a lasting warmth of earth and wind and sky. In this unsettled season between winter and summer, when the former refuses to loose its grip entirely and the latter even to commit to an arrival, we dream of long hot days, of long light and soft winds and hummingbird skies.

Wings captured the image above some years ago — one of those moments, on a cool brisk morning, when you look up and see the image fully formed, as though clouds and sky are conspiring to share a secret to spite a recalcitrant mercury. It was not, of course, a perfect image, nor in truth even a full one, but we both recognized it instantly. There is only one bird whose body and wings share such shape and proportion.

Otherworldly clouds are nothing new here,  nor the least bit unusual; indeed, spectacular formations are one of the hallmarks of these high-desert skies. But even by our standards, this formation was nothing short of spectacular, all pleated rows and gossamer layers against a fierce deep blue. It felt as though some spirit archetype had decided to show itself, though message and purpose remained unclear — or perhaps merely uncomfortably clear, a prophetic materialization intended to awaken us to the realities of climate change.

We, of course, were already well aware of the realities; we’d been living them, daily, for years by that point. Since then, breadth, depth, acceleration, all have only increased, observably so and in real time. But then, we still had no real feel for just how rapidly such change would expand and extend, how thoroughly it would upend all the usual patterns, the degree to which it would rob us of an ability to plan with any real accuracy. Then, we could still predict, more or less to the week, if not the day, the arrival and departure of the hummingbirds.

It has been a week, perhaps just over, since I heard what seemed the telltale buzzing of tiny wings, just beneath the deck in search of a red nectar-filled feeder. If it was there at all, it was too quick for mortal eyes to track it — or perhaps it was a spirit bird, permitting a moment’s human perception of its sound as reminder, lesson, caution, . . . warning?

We know that we cannot take this world for granted, not its atmosphere, its climate, its weather, the season. We know that we shall have to adapt — indeed, to evolve, and quickly, too. And we shall still have to cope with whatever circumstances an altered cosmos throws at us, from one day to the next.

For now, though, while we adapt, and prepare, and work, the light is golden, earth and air both warming, and it is still given to us to dream of hummingbird skies.

~ Aji








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