Top Tags

Of both earth and heaven

I am awed by the intelligence that flits through my back yard on a daily basis. I hang 2 ounces of sugar water from the awning in a tiny plastic tube, and a ruby-throated hummingbird finds it in a matter of hours. How does he do that? What sense leads him to this little tube in the midst of the vast world? Ditto for the chickadees who know when I’ve replenished the nyjer seed and the downy woodpeckers who drop in when the suet feeders are full. How do they know this? Do they instant message each other?

Here’s another mystery. I have lots of travelers, especially in the spring and fall. A nuthatch showed up on the 10th, and last year on the 7th, and the year before on the 3d, and in 2010 on the 16th. He [she? they?] will come through again, traveling north I assume, sometime in mid-March. Wood thrush, who winters in central America, shows up in late March or early April to till the hellebores and tear up the sod. Why doesn’t he visit on the southbound trip? Carolina wren, who usually stops by in November and February, doesn’t migrate. Where does she spent the winter? How does she feed and warm herself? 

The hummer stays all summer, but any day now, he’ll start his long trek to central America. How does such a tiny thing–he weighs about as much as a penny–travel 1500+ miles to central America? How does he fly 500 miles nonstop across the Gulf of Mexico? 

I could Google these questions and get answers. But they wouldn’t touch the mystery and magic unfolding here. I am with the poet Mary Oliver on this one:

“For truly the body needs a song, a spirit, a soul. And no less, to make this work, the soul has need of a body, and I am both of the earth and I am of the inexplicable beauty of heaven where I fly so easily, so welcome, yes, and this is why I have been sent, to teach this to your heart.”