This I Believe
I believe that when take decide to care of others, you must pay attention.
We have in our town Anna’s Hummingbirds, wonderful creatures, adept in air, their wings beat by my ear in the garden. They are often pared, one whirling by as the other feeds, they charm me with their familial nature and their boldness near our house, flying near and far, so I hear them when they come and go. They are not as brilliant as the Ruby Throats, nor splendid as Allens, but they evoke joy and familiarity. You get to know them, grey, emerald and cocky as boys on skateboards.
Wishing even more their presence, I put up a feeder. After all, winter as we have it even here in California shows fewer blossoms and I though it best to provide. And, I admit, I wanted them closer. My mother told me fifty years ago that feeding birds requires dedication. If they get used to the feeder, she told me, you must keep it full or they will starve when they lose its easy access. I was lucky because I knew I’d not have to travel after many years of leaving and I was certain I could keep the feeder for them. Every week it would go low and every week I’d mix spoonfuls of the nectar I’d bought into water to feed them.
So it went well. The birds came, I kept the feeder well up with its red fluid, put an extra spoon of nectar into the vial to make it ever more nurturing.
But these last few weeks, I noticed the feeder was not going down. The birds, as well, seemed to have left. It occurred to me that something was wrong but I failed to check the feeder, look to see if there was a problem. Something was up but I was too distracted to really look into it.
Tonight, I walked out on the porch and found an Anna’s hummingbird dead on the porch below the feeder. I picked it up. They are ineffably light, more delicate than any jewel. I couldn’t throw it out and it rests, now, on the railing outside.
This is when I took down the feeder, now instead of two weeks ago when I first thought to do so. The notches were open, no reason to believe the birds couldn’t get to the nectar. I opened it, then tasted it. It was flat, not sweet.
I’d filled it last with the bottom of the package and I realized as I touched my wetted finger to my tongue, why the birds hadn’t lowered it. When I’d used the last of the bag, all that had been left was the dye. The sugar they’d come to depend upon had been too little.
So when you say you will take care, you must pay attention. Or the delicate object of your care will leave you with grief.
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