“Haven’t you noticed the days somehow keep getting longer?
And the spirit voices whisper in us all.
Haven’t you noticed the rays? The spirit sun in stronger
And a new day is dawning for us all”
-Seals and Crofts, “Hummingbird” 1971
She swooped close to me in the greenhouse, and at first, I mistook her for a giant bumblebee. Ruby-throated, with iridescent feathers on her sturdy, fierce, little body, she darted from one end of the plastic building to the other while I stood pondering the merits of marigolds versus petunias. At first, I thought that the red geraniums on the top shelf had lured her into this warm, tropical place and that she was hanging out with me by choice. Then, I saw her fly like a small rocket straight to the ceiling and bump her head. Hard.
She was trapped.
I mentioned her to the clerk who was helping me with my plants and she shrugged. “Yep, we get a couple of them in here every day. They find their way in easily enough, but have a hard time finding their way back out the door.” I asked her what would happen to my little bird friend. “Oh eventually, they finally exhaust themselves, trying to fly out the way they came in. And then we catch them and let them go. It’s really kind of cool. To hold a hummingbird, I mean.”
As I drove home with a backseat full of marigolds, I thought about little birds. The one I’d met, and the one I’ve raised.
She is somewhat larger than a hummingbird, but just as busy and hard-headed. She will graduate from college next weekend. Like most college grads, she is excited about the future even though she has no idea what that future holds. It is a period of transition for her, one that has her beating her own head against the wall a lot as she applies for jobs and packs up her last college apartment to head out into the Vast Unknown Where Anything Is Possible. It is a terrifying and exhilarating place full of sunshine and wide open space to spread one’s wings and fly. And she will. Fly, I mean. Her future is limited only by her imagination. That’s what I tell her all the time.
Even so, there will be times when she yearns for the warmth and free nectar of the hothouse. Times when she will be moving too fast, working too hard, and thinking way, way too much when she’s going to need someone who loves her to catch her and hold her tight. To tell her to slow down and stop to smell the flowers and just breathe, for heaven’s sake. There will be days, months, and maybe even years in her life that she’ll feel like she does now and she’ll rub her head and need to be shown the door when she finds herself trying to take flight again, on a different path.
But this week, a hummingbird with a headache reminded me a lot of her. Small and busy and free. Going a hundred miles an hour through this thing known as Life.
Happy Graduation, Libby Choi. The sky is vast and limitless.