Karen Rivers

some thoughts about hummingbirds.

Karen Rivers

What's amazing is hummingbirds, their tiny perfection.  So think about those when you're struggling to think of something in the category of Things That Are Amazing.  

That's free advice.  I shouldn't be giving out advice, but I always do.  Other people's issues are always easier to break down and repair.  

Well, certainly you have a rash, but that is because you have just recently brushed by poison ivy while wearing shorts.  Try this cortisone cream. 



You aren't complicated, like I am.  


Here's my question:  Why am I suddenly afraid of the long corridor behind the main entrance of the hospital?  

No reason.  The place is crawling with doctors.  Should something outlandish occur, hundreds of brilliant medical minds will repair me.


No, I don't know either.  It's just a long corridor that seems to demand fear or the purchase of a donut.   There's a donut stand.  Why do they sell donuts in a hospital?  It seems counterintuitive.  

Donuts are only occasionally as good as they look.  No one ever has said, "This donut is AMAZING."

Or maybe they have.

Not about the ones they sell in the hospital though.

Will this coccoon produce a butterfly?  Will maggots eat my caterpillars?   Will you still be mad after school?   

I don't know, my sunshine-y little she-devil.  Maybe, maybe, maybe.  Maybe not.  Nothing is really answerable.  But think about a hummingbird.  Hummingbirds are amazing.  Be amazed.  

Mummy, stop being weird.  At school we read a book where the mummy didn't like yelling so she said that instead of yelling she was going to say "my darling girl".   Like, "Put on your shoes, my darling girl." Instead of getting mad.  Are you still mad?  Stop being mad at me.  I don't want you to be mad at me.

Would that I could stop being weird, my darling girl.  I'm not mad.  Not anymore.  Look, a hummingbird.



Stop it.

OK, my darling girl.

Don't forget to be amazed, even if other things are going on, such as an unreasonable fear of dropping your children off at school in case you ... 


I don't know.

Think about it.  Be your own therapist.


OK, fine.

Look, I'm not even afraid of fainting, not really.  It's uncomfortable, but so what?  A lot of things are uncomfortable, such as dental surgery or stepping on Lego.   

So why the big fear?  Death?

No, not even.  I'm not afraid of death.  Sure, I'm sad if I think about my children being motherless.  But afraid?


Besides, you know, people don't just DIE, not unprovoked, not often.  So why be so arrogant as to believe that it will be ME who is the exception?  I am not exceptional.  I am just a regular person, of a regular height and weight, in regular health, who sometimes gets desperately ...needy.  And broken-ish. 

We all get needy.  And broken-ish.

Not half.

You're OK, actually.

I know.

Hummingbirds may be anxious, too.  They may be flying around, panicking.  Where is the sugar?  Where is it?  Where?  

They may very well be questioning their own amazing-ness.

No one can know that for sure what the hummingbird's mental health is like, except for the hummingbird whisperers.  I'm sure there are some.  People with special skills are now developing subsets of their special skills to the point where, yes, hummingbird whispering is probably a thing.

A thing that likely doesn't pay well.

I don't really want to google it and spoil the idea that it exists, impoverished hummingbird whisperers tucking their business cards into flowering fuschia baskets around the neighbourhood.

Will this beetle eat my caterpillar?  

I don't know.  Probably not.  The caterpillar is bigger.

Will this caterpillar eat this beetle?

I don't know.  Probably not.   Don't get too attached, just in case.

Can I have another candy?


What can I do then?

Let's just sit here.  Let's just sit in the sun and look at the hummingbirds as they eat from the flowers, look at how they are happy.

Are they happy?

Yes, let's just say they are.  Why not?  We don't know any different.

I am as happy as a hummingbird, Mummy.  

Are you, sweetie?  That's good.  Me, too.

Don't call me sweetie.  Call me "my darling girl."

OK, my darling girl.


Hummingbird Pauses at the Trumpet Vine

Who doesn’t love
roses, and who
doesn’t love the lilies
of the black ponds

floating like flocks
of tiny swans, 
and of course, the flaming
trumpet vine

where the hummingbird comes
like a small green angel, to soak
his dark tongue
in happiness -

and who doesn’t want 
to live with the brisk 
motor of his heart

like a Schubert
and his eyes
working and working like those days of rapture, 
by Van Gogh in Arles? 

Look! for most of the world
is waiting
or remembering -
most of the world is time

when we’re not here, 
not born yet, or died -
a slow fire
under the earth with all
our dumb wild blind cousins
who also
can’t even remember anymore
their own happiness -

Look! and then we will be
like the pale cool
stones, that last almost 

- Mary Oliver