She’s Gone

She’s really gone…

She’d spent a whole day saying goodbye. When I realized she’d gone, I wept.

That tiny ball of energy had become my beloved companion. I was worried for her safety, knowing she would fly in a straight shot across the Gulf in an 18 to 20-hour solo trip and face an uncertain future when she arrived in Mexico.

I’ve always loved hummingbirds but I’ve never had one like her. A mere three inches long, she was the undisputed queen of my yard. No other female dared approach “her” feeder.  (Hummingbirds are territorial in an almost pugnacious way. They’re not social birds, just sexual for a few brief weeks.) She wove a tiny nest the size of a walnut with spider silk and moss in the crook of a branch on the weeping cherry tree, an early source of nectar, and laid two eggs the size of peas.

When I planted a mandevilla and rosy, ruffled hibiscus on the deck outside my office window, she took up residence there. I’d woven the mandevilla vine around an iron stake with a heart at the top and she used that as her throne. She perched right at the base of the iron heart, like a gleaming emerald amongst rubies. She kept me company as I worked.

At the start of the season, there was a male feeding with her. When nesting time came, he ate heartily from the feeder – she vanished for weeks, only to reappear with children the size of bees. In fact, the first time I saw them, I thought they were bees. Then the male was banished. Was he rude? Greedy? Disloyal? Did she prefer solitude? I’m not sure, but she was larger than he was and before long she had driven him to the far corners of the yard where the butterfly bushes bloom against the fence. After the banishment, she sent the babies out on their own and spent her  days with me.

She particularly enjoyed being a part of the guided visualizations that begin all my calls with widowed clients. (If you’re rolling your eyes right now, stop. She understood it was sacred. Say what you will, she knew.) She’d hold very still and lift her breast to catch the sun, her tiny gorget feathers spiraling a spectrum of color toward me with an energy that was crystalline. She was pure femininity, pure strength. Her beauty and powerful flight inspired me.

As the summer drew on, we grew closer still. She’d fly to and from her feeder, returning to her heart perch, as I grilled or sipped wine on the deck. In these moments of gentle communing we were close enough to share a breath.  She was the most unusual (and beautiful) girlfriend I’ve ever had.

By the time autumn arrived, the others were long gone. On a cold mountain morning, I found her perched on her heart in a state of torpor, a deep, sleep-like hibernation used by hummers to preserve their fat stores. I wondered if she was too old to migrate, and for several days, that appeared to be the case. But then she flew deliberately from my office window to her feeder. Back and forth, unabashedly demanding (and receiving) a batch of fresh, homemade nectar.

On the last day she drained the feeder and her belly grew fat. Her communing grew more intentional, almost magical. While I typed, she hovered near my office window and watched me work. She sat on the dogwood outside the dining room while I ate lunch. We had supper together on the deck. She watched the sunset from her perch and fluffed her feathers up for a parting swirl of jewel-like color as the light of the day faded. I think she wanted me to remember her beauty.  When dawn came, she was gone.

I know she had to leave and I am thankful for the sweet farewells of her parting. Her presence was a tiny, colorful reminder that many other sentient creatures also call our planet home. I wish her the safest of travels on her solo flight across the Gulf of Mexico. What an amazing woman. I am proud to have known her.

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