Sometime last fall I wandered out into the yard and stared at the two sunflowers growing along our fence. I had planted sunflower seeds all along the base of the wooden trellis, but only two flowers emerged. One was a respectable six feet tall—the other a massive ten feet. In order to keep that latter giant standing I had to attach it to the fence with a thick rubber bungee cord.
It was early in the morning when I saw it. A whisking blur, red and green, hovering then darting then hovering, like one of those floating specks in your eye.
A hummingbird. It seemed partial to the sunflowers. It hovered under the downturned face of the smaller flower, its needle nose probing.
Then it vanished, whirring off into that late September morning.
A few days later I was outside again, and I started chatting to our neighbor. I asked him if he’d seen the hummingbird, and his eyes lit up.
“Was it a little green one with red on it?”
“I think so,” I said.
He grinned. “That’s a ruby-throated hummingbird. Did you know they migrate all the way over the Gulf of Mexico each fall, then come back over the gulf in the spring? Amazing creatures. And they return to the same feeding ground. This one here in our yard could be the same one every summer.”
I stood there quietly, contemplating an animal with that kind of a GPS, that kind of dedication, willing to fly thousands of miles, simply because that’s what its instinct was telling it to do.
“All that way,” he said again.
Ruby-throated hummingbirds fly alone from the south coast of the US to Mexico, covering 500 miles of water in approximately 20 hours, making the trek twice each year.
I wonder what that would be like, approaching the Gulf of Mexico, buzzing over the last houses and the autumn beaches, the waves breaking on the shore, and leaving it all behind, heading out over that great expanse with nowhere to rest, nowhere to stop.
How many times have I started something difficult and then turned back? Or lingered at the edge for too long, doubting my ability, doubting I had what it took to make the trek?
Some ruby-throated hummingbirds have been known to take refuge on oil tankers in the gulf, lying still on the decks until they recover, then fluttering back to life and disappearing over the water. Which is just to say that maybe we should embark on impossible journeys, because even when we don’t have the strength to make it the whole way, who knows what oasis or unexpected resting point will give us just what we need to make the entire journey?
“Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.” E.L. Doctorow
A few things I’d like to share with you:
“At some point in our fertility/loss journey, when we were beginning to come to terms with a life of childlessness, I remember thinking to myself, “There are a lot of folks writing about parenting. And a lot more folks writing about infertility/loss and empty-nest seasons than there used to be. But who is even talking at all about life when it’s just you two and only always will be?”
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“If your writing life has become mundane, stilted or weighed down by doubts and rejection, join Maile for some much-needed creative refreshment. Through guided personal reflection, theme-specific writing prompts, and workshopping opportunities, you’ll spend these eight weeks exploring your God-given identity as a creative and breathing new life into your writing.”
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“Is productivity really the only grid for the good life?”
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Finally, since I’m not on Instagram at the moment, a few photos from our long weekend…
Love seeing your family’s faces. 💙 Here’s to long weekends.
Beautiful writing! Thank you.