G cleaned our hummingbird feeder tonight and made fresh nectar for a tiny bird he has named “Buddy.” A few weeks ago, G was out on the deck in the still of the morning when a little hummingbird flitted in and out of petunias in the flower boxes. The two of them spent a peaceful few moments together. G delighted that the hummingbird showed no fear as it came closer and closer to him.
As bluebirds are special to me, hummingbirds are the bird that G shares with his Avo (the Portuguese word for grandfather). When Avo retired to his little house in Carmo de Minas, he made a project of feeding the hummingbirds. But one day, he forgot. That afternoon, he took his walk two blocks over to the town square to sit under the shade trees and rest. While he enjoyed the stillness, a little hummingbird flitted up to him. It hung there, flying circles in the air before Avo’s face. Avo laughed, hauled himself up off the bench and began his slow walk home to fill the feeder. The hummingbird buzzed beside him all the way.
G’s grandmother, Vovo, died a few weeks ago, right around when Buddy showed up on the deck. G and I are both rationalists, but when he told me about the hummingbird that wasn’t afraid of him, I said, “I think it was your grandfather, here to tell you that your grandmother isn’t suffering.” We, the rationalists, let that thought be, let it hold itself up against all logic, just like the hummingbird.
I cannot think of hummingbirds without remembering this tiny jewel of a poem by Raymond Carver:
Suppose I say summer,
write the word “hummingbird,”
put it in an envelope,
take it down the hill
to the box. When you open
my letter you will recall
those days and how much,
just how much, I love you.
When Raymond Carver wrote these lines to his beloved Tess Gallagher, he was dying slowly of an inoperable tumor. He knew there would be a day when she would need to be reminded of how much, just how much, he loved her. So he wrote the word “hummingbird.”
Peace to Avo and Vovo and all those who have flown before us.