It didn’t dawn on me how much of a fixture I had become in my own garden until I had my encounter with the hummingbird.
My routine was simple. Each evening I would go out and hand water the beds of vegetables and flowers that I had planted with a standard garden hose and sprayer nozzle. That time became a time of reflection and contemplation—akin to prayer. As I watered each bed, I would carefully examine the plants’ progress and ascertain if I needed to do more in my stewardship over them.
It was during one of these evening waterings that I met her—-the hummingbird. She came in quite boldly as if I were a tree or bush and not a person at all. Buzzing about the mist that emanated from my hose sprayer, she would dart in as close as she could and then retreat to a few feet outside of the radius of the spray. In and out she went, seemingly frustrated at the velocity of the water but determined to connect with it anyway. She tried angle after angle, approach after approach, sometimes darting off to a nearby tree or bush to recalculate her strategy. All the while I was standing there, feeling quite invisible, as I tried to redirect the water’s spray to her liking.
At one point the hummingbird simply sped away into the air, seeming to have given up to seek food elsewhere. I finally felt as if I could breathe again. I realized that I had remained as still as possible in order to not break the spell that had been cast allowing this magic moment to happen.
I moved to another spot along the garden path to sprinkle moisture on the scented geraniums along the old cement walk. As the mist rained down on the strawberry essence of their blossoms, the hummingbird came speeding back, readopting her hovering stance. She darted in and out again, dancing the same dance as before. I became aware that she seemed more hopeful this time, primarily because stray droplets on the outer perimeter of the spray were landing on the old cement walk and also filling a worn saucer-sized divot.
I somehow understood what she wanted then and slowly adjusted the spray so that more of the outer mist fell on the cement.
As if saying, “You finally got the hint!” the hummingbird settled her muted brown body onto the moist walkway and proceeded to shower in the spray.
I was overcome with the magic of it all as I watched her ruffle and stretch so calmly with me only a few short feet away. I had never seen such a docile hummingbird before. Most hummingbirds never light close to a person, let alone on the ground in such an openly trusting manner.
Her showering activities probably only spanned a few minutes by anyone’s watch, but to me it seemed like the moment lasted much longer. Feelings of pure trust hung in the air while also enveloping my heart making it burn within me.
And then at her hummingbird whim, she was through and flitting away high to a mimosa tree in the neighbor’s yard. I continued to watch, transfixed as she preened herself meticulously with her long petite beak—putting each feather into place as they warmed and dried in the amber light of the evening sun.
My garden had brought me a miracle, I thought. I held the sweetness of the experience in my heart, savoring it as I finished watering the garden, certain that this would be a unique serendipitous event that would happen only once.
But as I have come to understand with my whole experience in this sacred garden of mine, things would not be as I had come to expect.
The next evening, I went out for my watering routine. Only a few short minutes into my rounds about the garden paths, I heard the short almost imperceptible staccato notes of her call in the distance above me. She was back—buzzing away and dancing the same dance about the spraying water as if we had a scheduled ballet to perform together already choreographed and staged.
She was bolder that evening, often lighting on a nearby wire cage surrounding one of the tomato bushes in order to observe my movements and just “get acquainted”. Her patient observation was what fascinated me the most. Hummingbirds are such hyperactive little creatures. To see her calmly lighted on her chosen perch simply watching me was astounding.
The following day she was back again, even earlier then before, as I worked in the garden installing a drip mist irrigation system. She and some tiny finches were the first to test the mists of the sprayers I installed by the newly planted “Snow-in-Summer” and a rescued and transplanted hydrangea.
I thought that the little bird must be somehow “smelling” the water when I first turned it on and then was seeking it out each day. I reasoned that it must be instinct that was bringing her to my garden.
My reasoning changed a few evenings later. I was in the living room with my back to the large picture window that overlooks the front garden. I had just stood up from the couch, absorbed in telling Brent something about my day. In mid-sentence, Brent uncharacteristically interrupted me, pointing out the window and exclaiming in breathless, almost whispered disbelief, “Look!”
I turned to face the huge pane of glass and there on the other side was my hummingbird friend, buzzing and hovering at eye level, peering into the window at me. I moved toward her a step and she never wavered, just continued her hovering. She seemed to say, “Well, hello! Why aren’t you out back where I normally see you? I’d like a shower now, if you don’t mind.”
It was me she was coming to the garden for—at least, me and the water I could provide. She was recognizing me! The concept taxed every ounce of reasoning power I had. Hummingbirds just didn’t do that! But there she was proving me wrong.
So the companionship is a simple one. Each day I come out into the garden. And each day her chirping from afar announces her entrance. Sometimes she dives right in front of me into a hovering pattern to say hello—dancing in midair only a foot or two in front of me as if examining the pattern on my dress or shirt.
Other times she simply waits until the water goes on and then descends at breakneck speed into the mist, stopping right in the “sweet spot” where the water isn’t too overpowering for her little body. This is usually followed by the now routine perching on the tomato cage to observe, preen, and dry.
And then other days, she simply flits about a few feet behind me so I can see her moving shadow on the ground in front of me. Then she’ll skirt about me and begin to dine on the scented geraniums only inches in front of my feet. At those times she is so close I can see her little sliver of a tongue moving in and out of each blossom extracting the delicious nectar that I am certain must taste like strawberries.
And each day as she appears in my view and begins her ballet, she is accompanied by an orchestra of the spiritual peace that washes in like a sweet yet stirring overture. I have prayed during those moments to know why it is that I have been chosen to have this experience. Why did she choose me? And a quiet whisper replies that it is because she sees me as the steward of this garden and this garden is special. Even this tiniest of creatures feels it. And I am blessed for knowing her.