Texanna | June 2018

By Anna Mitchael

Steady As They Fly

The buzzing of a hummingbird’s wings sings one song to me, and that tune is all about Texas. I know this isn’t the case for everyone. Some people see hummingbirds and think “long beak, quick speed.” Others are reminded of the delicious cake named after those effervescent flyers. Perhaps you know the one, with banana and pineapples and just the right mix of light sweetness … oh, but if I get started on Southern desserts, I could go on ’til next Tuesday.

Here in Texas we only get to see a fraction of the hummingbird species, but that doesn’t mean there is less to love. When the first one buzzes through our yard, I take flight too, back to the first hummingbirds I ever saw, congregated at my grandma’s house. Her picture windows showed off East Texas pines and a traditional feeder with a tall, red cylinder on top and a flowered base at the bottom. I’ve read a hummingbird can remember every flower and feeder where it’s ever eaten. And for almost as many years as I have been alive, Grandma has filled that same feeder with sugar water.

Of course the birds come and go. For that matter, children do too. But Grandma remains. She takes whatever Texas throws at her. Rain and hurricanes, hellish heat and hellfire preachers. Through the furies and the floods she stays steady.

I suspect this steadiness is part of why I waited so long to get my own feeder — I wanted to lean toward freedom and away from feeling firmly planted. But then last month my husband and I went to a concert. We walked in expecting the loud noise of a crowd. Instead all I heard was him asking, “Where is everybody?” My first thought was that I was the worst wife around. When asked what kind of concert to expect, the other wives had told their husbands the truth. “Well, honey, it’s going to be a lot of love ballads sung by an Australian surfer hunk.” Whereas I had just smiled and said, “You’ll see.”

But then I caught myself mumbling, “I could have sworn the show started at 7:30 …” and I knew my mistake. Some people may cite achy bones and joints or having a regular seat at Denny’s, but expecting a rock show to start on time is actually the top sign of aging. I had thought for so long I was just living my life, yet seasons were passing. On the bright side, the show did go on. Eventually. And I decided it was time to embrace the hobby no club kid would dare tweet about: bird-watching.

The next week I had my own feeder. These days they make models designed like modern, wooden roof trinkets that just “happen” to attract birds. But why stick a toe in when you can cannonball? Mine is an exact match to my grandma’s.

I watch the little creatures that have found their way to our house sip sugar water with such focus that I wonder how I ever thought of them as flighty. And did you know that the hummingbird has a heart two and a half times the size it should for its body? In these modern times that’s not a bad thought to sit with.

“Watching the birds again?” my son asked the other day. I’m not expecting him to get hooked on hummingbirds, not yet at least. But I can try to pass on what was given to me.

“These birds,” I told him truthfully, “actually have some love ballads you might like.”

He snickered. At me, I think, not with me. And then he wandered off. But it was all right, I knew eventually he would come back. Steady as she goes.