One chilly morning in early May, Greg and I came downstairs to find one of these little guys slumped in the corner of the transom over a family room window. At first I thought he was dead. I felt sick--I had left the window open the night before when I refilled the hummingbird feeder. I ran for a dishtowel and carefully scooped him up. I'd never tried to hold a hummingbird before; I had no clue what to expect. If he was lucky enough to still be alive, I was afraid my picking him up might startle him and I might hurt him. I hoped the towel would let me to hold him safely while I got him outside.
He was practically weightless. Like picking up a whisper, a piece of fog. He was death-still and cold. His tiny head plopped forward onto his chest. I curled my fingers around his little body and nestled him in my palm, praying that my body warmth might revive him. I willed my heat into his tiny body. I breathed warm breath over him. Nothing. He just lay motionless in my hand. But somehow, I knew he wasn't dead. A picture came to my mind - I could see him helplessly fluttering against the windowpane over and over again, frantically trying to get outside, confused at the glass barrier stopping him, then finally, collapsing on the sill, exhausted and empty. He'd been trying to get to the feeder, and he'd burned up his tiny store of energy. He needed food—fuel for body heat and energy.
I sat with him in my hand out on the front step where the early morning sun hits the house. I'd mixed warm sugar water in a teaspoon and, cradling his tiny head carefully between my thumb and forefinger, I gently dipped the tip of his beak into the teaspoon and waited, watching closely for some sign of life. Still, no response. The air warmed and the sun reached our step and eased across his little body. Suddenly, he opened his eyes. He didn't move, but continued to lay quiet in my hand, calmly allowing me to dip his beak into the teaspoon. After five or six more dips, his mouth opened and his little tongue darted out. He'd tasted the nectar! He still made no attempt to move, but let feed him, resting, calm in my hand, bathed in the warm morning sun. The moments were quiet, almost breathless. Reverent. Enchanted.
After a bit, he stood and began to drink by himself. Still, he made no attempt to leave. He fluttered his wings slightly every now and then. Stretched a bit, as though he'd just wakened from a good night's sleep but really didn't need to be anywhere quite yet. He'd look over at me now and again, curious maybe, but not alarmed. We kept on in our peaceful ritual: dipping, watching, waiting, dipping, watching, stretching. It could have been minutes, I'm thinking it was the better part of an hour or more. When he decided he was finally ready, he simply flew up into the river birch next to the path, and sat and considered me for a while longer. Then, he dipped and glided off into the trees and disappeared.
All that summer, whenever the hummers came to the window, peering in impatiently to remind me that the feeder was empty again, I would imagine that one of them was my little buddy from that May morning. I hoped that he remembered, that he felt as connected and as grateful and I did. I still watch for him. Every single spring.