I spent the better part of the morning yesterday, and some of the afternoon, keeping as still as possible on the porch by the enormous buddleia, lying (or rather standing) in wait for hummingbirds, hoping to capture an image of one with my camera. The day before, I happened to pause in the solarium and a fleeting movement outside the window caught my eye - even from a distance I recognized the tiny, unmistakable profile - hovering body, wings and beak. It is the time of year for them here - or at least that was my experience in Brooklyn.
What I started writing a few days ago...
I keep wanting to write about hummingbirds but my little experience with them seems thinly feathered. Just that when D & I lived in Carroll Gardens, we had a beautiful black iron terrace, easily accessed through a French door, that served as a much-cherished summer outdoor room on which we had a table and chairs, and lots of planters and hanging baskets and pots. For many (some 15) summers that we lived there, I grew all sorts of wonderful flowering plants, including a particular form of delicate salvia named "Lady in Red" (first obtained by mail-order via the exquisite and pricey White Flower Farm, scored other years at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden annual May plant sale).***
For several years in early September, I would be sitting quietly at the table and it would be as if the atmosphere changed with the visitation of a tiny, emerald-colored (as I recall) ruby-throated hummingbird, attracted to the clear scarlet tubed salvia blossoms, as well as to a buddleia. I was thrilled.
One year I made a decision to pursue a masters at the NYU graduate school of public service, and had been accepted and granted a scholarship. Even as I was about to start classes I was undecided about which track to pursue, policy or planning. (How I envy your seemingly always knowing Where You Were Going - no, not envy - I'm happy for you, it just wasn't what I experienced or could figure out for myself.) I wanted to pursue a masters because I was feeling stuck in my legal assistant job at a city agency, and also because I felt like a failure without one - most of my girlfriends certainly had figured out masters degrees and even Ph.D's. So I didn't have the best motivation to pursue a masters and was unfocused as ever...
Hummingbirds are very quick and alert, and I didn't manage to get a picture yesterday - they flitted away in the split-second delay. But I caught many glimpses. First there was just one bird, then another, a pair, female perhaps, grey with the palest flush of shimmering green at the throat. Each paused in midair for a moment to check me out then, in communication with each other, zoomed away. They seemed annoyed by my presence and I felt that they wanted me to leave. But I stayed and observed. I saw one fly to the far side of the garden and perch on the dead branch of a small peach tree. Across the way I looked at it and it looked at me. Eventually it returned to the enticing buddleia, hovering briefly among the fragrant purple blooms along with the bees (I had stood still so long that I had become aware of the background sound of buzzing - as well as attuned to the particular hummingbird chirp), several different butterflies, and a tiny, furry, bird-like moth, the insect world's imitation of a hummingbird, a fascinating correspondence.
One day in the golden light of a late afternoon I was lounging on the terrace, mulling over the course offerings. I had already enrolled for the classes (e.g., microeconomics, statistics) that were required no matter which degree program I decided to pursue. As I sat among the lushly filled planters a hummingbird visited and lingered. I marveled (not for the first time) that it was possible to create a tiny bucolic haven even within the city, inviting - miraculously - even to a hummingbird, and that through concerted gestures such as planting flowers, trees, greening the hardscape, the city could be made much more liveable both for people and for nature. At that moment I definitively decided on urban planning. I looked at the schedule and realized that the first session of a required planning course was to start in about an hour. I could stay home and start dinner or --***
I got moving and went out the door.
So I feel that I have a hummingbird to thank that a couple of years later I completed my M.U.P. My visionary ideas were a little out of the mainstream at the school. In my early days there I regaled the head of the program with my story of how a hummingbird in my garden had became a source of inspiration for me. She was a very, very dry, technical academician and as she fixed me with her uncomprehending, unsmiling eye I realized that she thought I was a fruitcake. I left her office feeling a little shaken by her stony reaction but thinking I was okay. I crossed Washington Square Park and for some reason that I've now forgotten I stopped by the office of another professor. I didn't know him at all, but knew that he was very popular and well-liked. As I stood in his doorway asking him whatever it was, I was just so immediately struck by his natural warmth and kindness that I burst into tears - it was just such a sharp, unexpected contrast from the other professor. I am not at all in the habit of doing that in my life - I was very embarrassed - and the professor was startled by my sudden emotion - but again, he was very kind as I collected myself.
Oh anyway. Hummingbirds.
Love you, darling. À bientôt.