The Hummingbird and the Fly
(from Within My Illusions)
The heat broke, so it seemed like a good idea
to stand outside and stare into space.
Specifically, the space between the trees
above the canyon
at the level of my deck,
maybe one hundred yards out.
I’m not a good judge of distance.
I practice relaxing my eyes
(or is it my mind?)
and that cluster of trees seems to merge
into a giant amoeba-like mass, swaying and pulsing.
Shapes dissipate into holographic forms
and I begin to perceive a movement of energy
where I thought there was nothing.
I look down and a hummingbird
is drinking from scarlet buds
on plants that grow below the deck.
Gray-brown with an iridescent back,
Wings flap and flap and flap as
she hovers in front of me for a moment
or two before flying off to the right.
I turn my head to follow her,
my gaze landing on a fly perched
on the neon green arm of a plastic chair.
He crawls up the length and around the side.
Maybe he is looking for water too?
Or perhaps a place to rest
before he begins the long journey across the canyon,
which to him must seem as big
as the city is to me.
I was only going to write about the hummingbird.
But then I thought,
“Why should the fly be any less remarkable?”
This week, instead of a break in the heat, I took advantage of a break in the rain. I had spent the previous two hours on Zoom engaged in a vibrant and expansive conversation with writer adrienne maree brown and a group of fellows from the Garrison Institute. My mind and heart were full. It felt natural to want to do something, to organize my notes or write a summary of the session, some sort of project. Instead, I got up from my desk and wandered around inside my house for a few minutes. When I realized that it wasn’t raining anymore, I stepped out onto the back deck.
The air outside had a dreamy quality to it, with birdsong and windchimes and a gentle haziness that felt like a stark contrast to the high-definition, pixelated world where I had spent the previous two hours. I reminded myself that this is the world, too. At first, I was tempted to say, “this is the real world,” but more and more I’m embracing both realities—the analog and the digital. I’m certainly not native to digital landscapes any more than I’m native to the wild land behind my house. It seems like I’m feeling my way into both, discovering contours and possibilities of each space.
After a few minutes of being outside, I noticed a sparkling on the yaupon bush that has grown tall enough to reach the deck from the ground below. There, a smallish web, about four inches tall and three inches wide, lay embraced by the upper branches of the plant. Raindrops, suspended from the threads like fairy lights, vibrated with the breeze.
For about five minutes, I was completely transfixed by this interplay of light, water, wind, and earth. In search of perspective, I started taking pictures and videos from multiple angles, zooming in on the water drops, which appeared faceted at close range, perhaps a revelation of their crystalline structure, or perhaps a distortion by the over-zoomed focus of the digital camera.
Finally, I put the phone away and closed my eyes. It was starting to rain again, though that didn’t seem to deter the birds from their symphony. I would need to go back inside soon, back to my schedule and the to-do’s. In a way it was a frivolous moment, a break from the tasks of the day. At the same time, it seemed to me that nothing could have been more profound than standing there, bare feet on wet ground, green seeping into my pores, as though I could simultaneously absorb this masterpiece and become absorbed by it, as though something in me had been fundamentally changed.
I share this 80-second video for you to watch and listen to the scene.