The hummingbird landed with a thud on my windshield.
Dave hadn’t meant to kill it–but rather–save it from being trapped in our garage.
It had been hovering just below the ceiling for hours and then at dusk, when the garage light came on, it began slamming itself against the florescent bulbs over and over again like a moth.
“Why doesn’t it just fly out?” Dave asked.
“I don’t know. The garage door is certainly big enough and it has been open all day. If it just lowered itself three feet it would see it and be free.”
But it didn’t lower itself. Instead it kept its position at the garage ceiling, hovering around the artificial light. I read somewhere that moths do this in pursuit of the moon.
I’d found an old fishing net–the one Dave’s father had given him years ago and we’d never used. I handed it to Dave who had a better chance at reaching the bird than I.
“Be careful.” I said.
“I know, I know,” he said standing on his toes.
Being a bird lover, I wanted the tiny hummer to survive. I was worried that if it stayed in the garage all night it would die. They use so much energy batting those light speed wings that they don’t last long without a food source.
Dave held the net high and swung with smooth steady strokes back and forth. The bird flew in the opposite direction and then circled back, ever drawn to the light.
This light-addiction could be counted on, even if it meant being bludgeoned by a fishing net.
Dave scooped and swung and I repeated the warning to be careful.
“Gentle, gentle,” I said as if anything wild can be trapped gently.
“Ugh missed,” Dave swung.
“Oh, almost,” he swiped.
And then, “Ah, I got it,” and slam. In one motion, the net caught the bird and in his excitement Dave’s momentum brought the net full swing onto the top of my parked car. It laid there like a dead butterfly on the windshield wiper.
“Oh, no honey…” I winced.
“Oh, crap. I’m sorry Lis…oh, jeez. Is it dead?”
I scooped its silken body into my hands eager to touch it.
There it was–limp in the palm of my hand. Every nerve ending tensed in hope for the faintest sensation of life.
I held my breath and prayed.
And there it was.
“I can feel a heart beat.”
I laid my other hand over it, to warm it and protect it and selfishly, to keep it.
I called my son Jacob, my daughters Jess and Jo and my Mom.
“Come see…it’s a hummingbird…in my hands…”
“Is it alive?” each one asked.
“Can I hold it?” they asked not wanting to touch a dead thin—that is another story.
“Yes, it is alive. I can feel its heartbeat.”
Each one held it, swooned over it and impulsively touched its frail beak.
“It’s so tiny, like a needle.”
“How does his beak keep from breaking?”
“It feels like I could snap it in half with my fingers.”
Dave, post adrenaline, went in the house.
“Pray for the hummingbird” I told the group as the bird was returned to my
hands and they lost interest.
But resurrections take time.
I sat on the front porch with the little bird still cupped in my hands for about thirty minutes when mom suggested making a bed for it, “To keep it safe tonight.” She dragged her left leg slightly slower than her right and perched her right hand on the top of her cane and came back with a tissue box.
I thanked her and held the bird with visions of waking to a stiff hummingbird stuck in a tissue box when, ah, I felt a foot flicker.
It was the tiniest of sensations, but I felt it.
I peeked inside my hands.
And then after a few minutes, I felt the other foot flicker, and then a while later; I felt the
bird’s head lift and its noodle neck stiffen.
“I think it’s coming back” I said to Jacob, who was the only one still checking.
And then its head lifted and turned right and its eyes blinked and then its head turned left
and its eyes blinked again and again.
All the while I kept praying.
I held my palm open and un-cupped my other hand.
And then the tiny talons opened and tucked themselves beneath the bottom of the bird and held the weight of its body. I could see the iridescent red throat and moved my head to see it change color like a ruby on my finger.
Another blink, another head turn and then without notice it took off like a mini-helicopter–straight up and out and I squealed in delight and in an instant it flew right into the overhang of the front porch where it started banging itself against the porch ceiling.
It had survived the blunt force trauma of the net, taken the time to recover, been held in loving hands and received prayer, regained its ability to fly and it still ended up stuck.
“What the heck?” Jacob said.
“Can you believe that? It could fly into the wide open canyon but it is still trapped here.”
It stopped fluttering and perched on a rafter in silence.
“It’s on its own now,” Jacob said as he went into the house.
“Maybe it just needs a quiet place in the dark to get its bearings,” I replied. I squinted into the darkness for a glimpse and then gave up, went inside and washed my hands.
In the morning we looked all around the front porch thinking we would find a lifeless hummer, dead from exhaustion. We searched the rafters and peeked into dark crevices but the bird was not to be found.
Somewhere between the darkness and the dawn, it had found its own way.