An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of January 21, 2008
Written at Yerba Buena and issued from a ciber in
Pueblo Nuevo Solistahuacan, Chiapas, MÉXICO

HUMMINGBIRDNESS

At age 60 I'm aware not only of my body changing but also my mind. For example, sometimes when I'm watching a hummingbird hoping it'll land so I can get a good look at it, it'll simply vanish. My mind isn't quick enough to register its quicker bursts of flight. Similarly, at the computer I'll click on a certain program and as I wait for the proper screen I realize that the proper screen already has appeared, just that my mind hadn't caught the change. These things didn't use to happen.

On the other hand, nowadays a flitting-by hummingbird means more to me than it used to. For example, the word "hummingbird" instantly brings to mind the Ruby-throats at my mother's kitchen-window feeder back in Kentucky long ago, and the name "Long-tailed Hermit" evokes large hummingbirds with curved beaks and pointy tails, which I was watching feeding at red-flowered hibiscuses alongside the dark green jungle at the Maya ruins of Palenque in torrid lowland Chiapas one winter morning when that gal from Chicago came along, the bank vice-president in her broad, pink hat and white slippers, the same morning the space-shuttle Challenger exploded... On and on, hummingbird associations.

But, it's more than just memories and associations. Now I recognize a definite hummingbirdness, the presence of a certain hard-working, fast-moving, gay etherealness is present not only in the bird world but throughout reality in all its dimensions. There's hummingbirdness during certain strains of inspired music, in the way certain molecules are structured, in certain people's demeanor.

And there's more than just hummingbirdness. There's wind-in-trees-ness, summer-cloud-ness, Bach fugueness, big-river-ness, empty-beach-ness, on and on. When I was young, the individual manifestations of all these manners of being -- the birds or fugues by themselves -- were just themselves. Now I understand that each separate thing, each moment, each feeling I experience is a lovely variation on a simple but profound theme eternally flowing throughout the Universe.

Moreover, there's actually a limited number of themes, and as I age that number diminishes as, say, I realize that summer-cloud-ness is the same as empty-beach-ness, that both are really just space-for-feeling-ness. I suppose that eventually I may see that there's only one theme in all of human-detectable reality, and that's pure existence.

What does it all mean? At age 60 already I see that that's a wrong-headed question, for, really, there's no question at all.

There's a recognition, however, that all this stuff -- this reality, this life, this passing from one moment to another -- is very artfully staged by something, the thing I call the Universal Creative Force. Moreover, each of us has a good seat for watching what's going on.

So, at age 60 I'm missing a few hummingbird wingbeats, but there's more texture, depth and meaning to what I do see, as I catch onto the theme thing, and gain insight into what the whole show is all about.

And that's a decent trade for getting old. Facebook Icon.