Saturday, February 23, 2013

A Hopelessly Stupid Hummingbird

He* was locked in a lethal battle by his own perception of reality.  The whirring sound of the Hummingbird’s wings was repeatedly punctuated by a soft ‘thump’ as he stubbornly threw his tiny body against the sunlit window high above the kitchen floor.  This beautiful creature seemed convinced that the window represented the pathway to freedom, contrary to the repeated painful experiences indicating the opposite.

How or why the Hummingbird had ventured inside our home seemed unimportant when faced with the challenge of returning him to his natural habitat outside our home.  I expect that the feeder we had just purchased, filled with sweet water and hung on our back porch had probably tempted the tiny thing too close to the open sliding glass door.  No amount of gentle encouragement from a feather duster or threatening with a broom had the desired effect.  In fact, each attempt resulted in increased frantic flying into the glass, with loosened feathers floating onto my head.  Frustrated and fed up, I threatened aloud to let the ignorant captive determine his own fate.

Perhaps it was the fact that my mercy mission attempts aggravated my painful tennis elbow that caused me to cease my efforts with the heartless condemnation, “Let him die up there then!”  Suddenly there was silence.  No pulsating wings.  No muted frontal assaults on the window.  And in that moment it was as if the bird’s beak pricked my heart.  I, too, was a hopelessly stupid Hummingbird. 
Two weeks ago, my intention was to play tennis every day, having not been able to play at all over the past 3 ½ months.  I had attacked the court with determination, flailing away wildly, but enjoying the sun, sweat and competition.  It was not so much a question of beating my opponent as it was battling my own body.  Bashing the ball across (or more often, into) the net left me feeling in charge of the body that was so relentlessly giving up ground to Parkinson’s disease.  But after two days of enthusiastic play my right elbow screamed, “Stop!”  I bowed out of the scheduled match for the third day thinking that one day’s rest would have me back in play again.  That was not to be.  Deflated, I felt like giving up on my efforts to fight the PD I felt imprisoned by.

The misplaced logic of my younger, pre-Parkinson’s years had led me to believe that I could pick up a tennis racket and play a set or two without preparation, practice or even warming up adequately.  It took the insult of injury to align my perception with the reality.  Who was I to judge a helpless little Hummingbird? 
The fragile bird lay on its back on the windowsill.  My brother-in-law gently grasped the tiny body, intending to relieve me of the need to deal with the lifeless corpse.  But, surprisingly, the helpless wings briefly fought against the cupped hands in what must’ve been a final effort to fight for freedom.  Hand-delivered to freedom outside, very little energy remained as he was placed carefully on the bright red feeder.  He seemed to have just enough life left in him to clutch desperately to the edge of feeder on the porch and sit motionless for several minutes.  Dazed and exhausted, he peered about as if lost. 
I imagined that the Hummingbird was traumatized and disabled to some extent as he flew away, not the same bird he had been before.  But maybe, just maybe, he had learned something about accepting reality instead of choosing the punishment of false perception.

*The choice of male pronoun was not intended to be gender biased.  Presumption of gender was chosen for reasons which will become self-evident.


  1. Bob you are SUCH a good writer and observer of life. Thanks for this entry and your candor about your own "misplaced logic."
    You embody positively parkinson's.

  2. I agree with Carson, Dad. You breathe life into the story of struggle with compassion and empathy. There is always room for hope and I love you for reminding me of that.

  3. Recently an owl got in our house. We figure he came down the chimney as our damper was open. I had heard him the night before, but didn't know what the sound was. Next morning I woke up to the sound of my husband rummaging. I asked what was up and he said we had a bird in the house. I got up and the owl had flown behind a crack between the wall and a buffet. We moved the buffet out and he flew into our large den. We searched and seached to no avail and decided to give up. My hubby went upstairs to shower and he yelled down the stairs that the own was up there. I grabbed a trash can and went up. He had lodged himself into a corner. I could reach in and pick him up as he had his head inwards. I was going to scoop him up and put him in the garbage pail, but I was afraid of hurting him. So finally my hubby covered his hands with a towel, gently picked up the own and ran downstairs and out of doors with him. We watched as he soared away toward the south. He had been so afraid of us, and yet we were his saviours. Sometimes we are fearful of people and what they might think but then we reveal our insecurities, disabilities, or problems, and they too can become an answer to a prayer.