Friday, July 31, 2009

Morning Walk Interrupted
This morning, like most mornings, my husband Zack and I, accompanied by our dog Simon, climbed up the steep hill to my mother-in-law’s place. We opened her gate and at the sound of the large cowbell hanging on it, Mary came out and joined us in our walk up to the upper end of the ranch.

From there around the looping dirt road that traverses the farthest pasture and woodland, it’s a mile, about half steep grades, and takes about a half hour or a bit more, depending on our speed. We passed by the lush, vine-laden grape arbors, the pair of pomegranate trees bright with orange-red blossoms, the two small trees covered with fuzzy immature almonds. Moving up the hill, we walked by the persimmon trees and stopped to open two more gates.

The road meanders past the old campground with the horseshoe pit, tire swing and outhouse. We walked past a storage van with some fencing supplies stacked nearby. There are several springboxes that my husband checks on each week, then we started the ascent up past the first water tank.

My mother-in-law gasped, her foot raised, ready to step. There on the road lay a hummingbird, its shimmering green feathers like a glistening leaf, so tiny, Simon had walked past without noticing. We stooped to admire its plumage when Zack said, “It’s still breathing.”

I picked it up, so light in the palm of my hand, it’s soft touch the only sign I held anything at all. The little bird fell over on its side and we saw a twig tightly grasped in its miniature talons. Last night the wind blew, rattling tree branches and banging against the house. Perhaps two young to fly, the bird had been blown from its nest. Maybe it was cold and unable to move. Then again, it may have been injured somehow.

Our walk forgotten, we headed back the way we had come, me carefully carrying the bird in one hand with the other cupped protectively over it. Both houses have hummingbird feeders — sugar water might revive the tiny creature.

But as I walked I began to feel faint movement inside my cupped hands. At first, there was just the whisper of a touch, the beak brushing my palm. Next came a tiny turn of the head, once, again, then again. By the time we reached the almond trees, the humming bird fluttered its wings, just a bit. We stopped there and I opened my hand.

The hummingbird sat there, grasping my thumb, turning its head this way and that, testing one wing, then the other, spreading its tail. The three of us watched, not saying a word. After a few moments, it fluttered up, came back down once, a brief touch of sharp claws on skin, then awkwardly flew to a nearby branch. With its sharp little beak, it preened its feather, ruffled them, then rose up on its whirring wings and disappeared.

Sometimes, caught up in the daily round of chores and the busyness of my church work, I forget the beauty that surrounds me. I forget that we work in order to live; we don’t live in order to work. Sometimes I forget to open my eyes and heart to the miracles that happen each day.

God sets us in the midst of this glorious creation—how can we not realize that just being here is a gift? Of course, not everyone is blessed with a mountain ranch home. But even in the city, there is beauty that we can scarcely describe—the swoop of a pigeon in the park, a hundred sails on the boats making their way back and forth across San Francisco Bay, the smile of an old lady who sits next to you on the bus.

We also sometimes forget that we are part of the beauty God created, the creation God loves. What does the scripture say, “For God so loved the world, he gave his only begotten Son…” or the newer Contemporary English Version in The Poverty and Justice Bible, “God loved the people of this world so much, he gave his only Son…” If we truly realized that we are so beautiful, so loved, how could humans ever do anything evil or ugly again? How could we?

Blessings and peace, Country Woman