Our bird, Hummer, has been spoiled by a constantly filled feeder that Mama keeps for her on the clothes line in our yard. Last week I bought a second feeder, a bit larger, with white flowers. We hung it further down the wire near to the original feeder and found it wasn’t getting much use. “It’s the white flowers.” Mama explained. “She likes the red flowers on this one better.” “Really?” I thought. Knowing little to nothing about birds and not having spent as much time with Hummer as Mama, I had no opinion except to wonder about this.
As we were talking about her again this morning, she arrived, drank, sat on the wire and started to settle herself as she usually does and then surprise, let out a large squirt of pee onto the cement that Mama missed seeing while I exclaimed with pointed finger at the wet droplets.
“Mother hummingbird on edge of nest about to brood young,” by William Lovell Finley, OSU Special Collections and Archives, 1905
Consumed with technological shifts in document creation, I spend less time in the garden and more at work in front of glass covered machines that emit a back light on keyboards that direct my typing. The reality of apples as food is lost on the logo of the company that drives access to the information we chase, churning out apps as tools to document a history that we often do not live into but rather peer at from a screen.
“Northern spy apples,” Huron H. Smith Expedition to Oregon, The Field Museum’s Library Photo Archive, 1910 – 1911
It’s hard to describe how songful the backyard birds are. That I can’t yet name these small birds is due to the time in the garden with the broccoli, beets, basil, dill, and chives. I’ve never planted food from seed nor have I had to navigate the now 3 feral chickens to make sure the crops are still thriving. The yellow leaves on the broccoli were a sign to transplant them into the earth with their siblings so that the integrated soil can deepen their new root life. Meanwhile, the birds chirp away, talking, singing and finding in their own voices a hint of spring gone wild.
“Half grown barn owls,” by William Lovell Finley; Herman T. Bohlman, Oregon State University Special Collections and Archives, 1900 – 1909
The small red hummingbird feeder was discovered months ago by a tiny red breasted bird whose daily visits help us settle into wonder. At first she came alone, drank quickly and darted away. Then she began to linger and watch us while we stared back through the large sliding glass door. I told Mama that the bird seemed to recognize her. “Of course, they see us.” That wasn’t quite my point.
One morning while wearing Mama’s teal blue and white robe, I went out into the dewy yard to check our now bursting garden. On my way there, “Hummer,” whom Mama named, flew by so closely that I swear she nearly lit on my shoulder. I’m sure she thought that I was Mama, who spends hours doting on her, cleaning and moving the feeder out of the rain and then making sure she finds it. Now Hummer is bringing a friend — her mother or her mate — we don’t know, but it doesn’t matter. We both know and are known by them both.