Our image of the Hummingbird is of free and rapid movement, flitting from one flower to another, in the flick of an eye. I can remember sitting on a terrace, for hours, my camera focused finely on a single bloom, in the hope that a in a brief, flitting moment I might capture an image of this natural wonder.
My patience paid off, and I transferred reality onto a small 35mm slide, that remains in my archive of memories, since the box of 36 slides has long since been misplaced.
Yesterday, I heard the persistent, somewhat frantic struggle of a single Hummingbird trapped against a skylight in my home. Somehow he/she had flown through an open door and immediately sought the sunlight above and beyond this barrier.
For a period of time, I ignored the fight for survival, hoping the little guy would realize the futility, and drop below the barrier to find one of the open doors that offered escape, and survival.
This was not going to happen.
Finally, I took a long broom and went into action, opening all of the windows on the side of our home beside the skylight. I then sought to urge the frightened being towards the edge of its prison, and flight to freedom.
It was a frustrating project, as the Hummingbird moved, in frightened flashes, to avoid the instrument of its salvation. Finally, in an unseen instant, he/she was gone. I didn’t see the moment in time, but the Hummingbird shot clear of its confinement and through some space and into its limitless world.
Perhaps it has a mate.
Perhaps it will find a mate to create a new family of Hummingbirds. This new family will grow and find mates to create more tiny magical creations to go on, repeating this process until the one tiny Hummingbird I saved, and its resultant families will expand into the millions, over time.
I have created some sort of Immortality through the salvation of one small Colibri.
But, yesterday, my maid came to describe the symptoms that have finally prevented her sister from sleeping at night.
She has pain and itchiness in her fingers and feet, coupled with a darkened discoloration of the skin.
It is obvious that the sister has an advancing stage of diabetes and there is nothing I can do to help.
Like thousands, millions of other Haitians, this lady had no source of medical assistance. Her condition will accelerate as her sister, and the rest of the family watch in helpless frustration.
Her end is predictable.
Treatment, if available, would be far beyond the entire family financial capability. If a doctor’s examination could be afforded, the prescription would be a skylight that trapped the Hummingbird.
And there is no one there to sweep the challenge through an open window towards salvation, and an expanding future.
And this, and all of the other frustrating losses around me have an impact that chips away at my soul.
As the famous poem of John Donne says
Any man’s death diminishes me, Because I am involved in mankind,
NO MAN IS AN ISLAND
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.