THE THIRD HUMMINGBIRD: A Winter Solstice Tale
This afternoon, alone in my Topanga Canyon kitchen, I see moving shadows repeat on the the tall living room windows. As I look more closely, the shadowy figures appear to be tiny, insect-like creatures whirring about on the inside of the windows of my A-frame house. I leave the kitchen and go into the living room, and am astonished to see three hummingbirds whirring around the highest windows. These sealed windows are very wide and triangle. The birds are a blur in the blast of the sun. I rush to open the sliding glass door near the windows. Several anxious minutes pass and great beating of wings. Suspense. One bird finally zooms out the open glass door.
The two remaining hummingbirds still frantically flutter. A broom, then a pole. Can't reach them. Grrrr. Frustrating. I grumble to myself.
They are too high. I'm afraid I will fall if I try to climb our tallest ladder. The birds are so fragile, they might hurt themselves if they continue to batter against the sealed windows. Will they exhaust themselves from the heat? I have read that hummingbirds beat their wings at 80 times per second. Maybe this natural cooling system will act as air-conditioning as they struggle? Hmmm. I think to myself, maybe my son can save the birds. He's so clever.
I call and leave a short message on my son's answering service. 'Have a meeting in town and have to leave'. I lock all the doors and leave the hummingbirds trapped inside the house. I hope they will live until I return. I Feel anxious and guilty.
Three is a lucky number, I think. This may be a prophecy! If they live, something positive might happen after this long and difficult period of my life. I reflect, thinking more of myself than of the birds imminent demise. But what if she has babies in a nest? She sits on the eggs for about sixteen days, and cares for the chicks by herself for another three weeks. When the baby birds fly away, they weigh more than their mother. The eggs are so tiny they are about the size of a small pea. Maybe these are fathers and not mothers?
At the meeting in town, a Winter Solstice celebration, the speaker talks about the 14 days between Christmas and the Epiphany. The number three is mentioned more than 50 times in the bible. The Three Kings of the Nativity bring physical, mental, and spiritual gifts to humanity. The Epiphany symbolizes the return of the sun, light, that symbolizes Truth, rebirth, and
" I am responsible for three hummingbirds' lives and whatever message they have for me"
My heart thumps away. I am breathless as I burst through our front door.
"Did you save them?" I ask my son.
"What are you so steamed up about?" my son mumbles. "I trapped one in a cup and took it outside. What's the big deal?"
I ask in a trembling voice, "What happened to the third one?"
"There was only one left."
"I saw two," I respond with a trembling voice, " Maybe one is dead"
"There was only one. I never saw two birds."
"Please look again, I thought he looked fine." I beg
"I see it now." He answers.
It must be dead if it isn't moving, I think to myself. "Hurry!" I shout up to him in a panic.
"It's not moving," he says in a very quiet voice. "It's dead."
"How can I stand it? Who can I talk to?" I think to myself with a chill that runs through my whole body. "This is your lesson. Don't ask anyone to explain what you need to understand for yourself."
I flash onto my animal medicine book, 'Hummingbird. 'A symbol of joy, creativity, love, and fragility. Dies quickly when imprisoned.'"
"As fragile as human love and creativity." I reflect to myself.
I go to bed and think about the sound of wings against windows. Hopeless.
Can't bring back joy and love. I killed that third bird.
Sleep and a heavy heart.
Awake, I continue to reflect on the dead bird. Suddenly, sadness and guilt turn to gratitude.
The death of the third hummingbird is a precious lesson; this bird came to bring me the importance of Spirit and Love. The feathers are a love charm for the South American Indians. I see now that freedom is essential to all Life. I too, am responsible for all of Life, especially my own. I must care for and protect all living beings, especially those more vulnerable than I.
Thank you, little hummingbird, for this valuable lesson that I will always remember, especially around the Winter Solstice.
After discussing the incident still later in the day, my Bhutanese Buddhist friend, Dorje, remarks,
"The lesson here is about the fragility of life. We are all born, and destined to die. Life is fragile, make the most of it." With a smile, he adds, "Do not feel sad. Sadness is not healthy. Life is Karma. We are not ultimately responsible for any other living thing's Karma. You wanted to protect all the hummingbirds, but the third one chose to fly into your home. That was not your Karma, it was the third hummingbird's choice."
"Hope is the thing with feathers"