Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Consider the Hummingbird


Joyful little Sister,
Nectar you crave!
All the sweetness
of the flowers
is the love you gave.
—Carson/Sams

In a former lifetime, I was given a book to read in a loft bedroom. As I sat in the sun below the skylight, I spread the accompanying deck of sky blue cards out across the bed. My hand wandered tentatively to the first card I chose. I turned it over, and the lightning bolt on the reverse of the card snapped me out of my reverie: I'd drawn the card for Hummingbird.

At the time, I was living alone, and one of my favorite things to do was sit under the red blossoms of the Japanese flowering maple tree outside my front door, talking on the phone or just enjoying the view down my garden to the city and bay beyond. My view was the stuff of urban legend. I rented a tiny in-law apartment in the Oakland hills, so private I didn't even lock my door. My "front yard" was the back yard of an old home, complete with landscaped terraces and a circle of Monterey pine trees. I once saw a trophy buck pose in the clover below my bedroom, then leap gracefully over a hedgerow and glide away up the hillside.

As I sat under tree the filled with flowers like glossy lanterns, ruby-throated hummingbirds would fly right above my head and drink the nectar from the bright red blooms. I'd see them perch on the branches, listened to them make their funny whirring sounds, and watched with delight as they dive-bombed each other from great heights in their territory disputes, emitting high pitched whistles on the downward swoop. Once I rescued one from a corner of my kitchen, holding her in the palm of my hand and chatting with her for some time before she flew away. I'll never forget her bright black eye looking back at me.

So, naturally I already felt a strong affinity for Hummingbird. Pulling that card gave me a gentle shock, whether from the simple thrill of serendipity or of actual contact with another dimension is open to interpretation. I've loved these little divination systems ever since. And, while I've shared these cards with friends for almost 20 years, and have learned from many animal teachers since that afternoon, Hummingbird will always be my key, my totem creature.

Living in Big Sur, I happily have the opportunity to apply the real-life version of animal medicine. When I see a hawk on the tree in our meadow, a fox scurrying up the road, or a gray whale spouting below us in the ocean, I check the medicine cards book for the appropriate wisdom. If I hear an owl for several nights running, see a rabbit make a mad dash for its burrow, or watch a flock of wild turkeys stroll past our house, I go to the book to see what my level of awareness is bringing to me.

David Carson and Jamie Sams' wrote the best-selling book of Native American cartomancy, Medicine Cards, in 1988. Carson is a writer and healer of Choctaw descent, Sams comes from the Seneca / Cherokee tradition. After a lifetime of preparation, they wrote and designed the Medicine Cards together in one week. Days afterward they had a publishing deal. It's been translated into 6 languages and has sold over a million copies worldwide.

But back to the hummingbird. Now it seems I'm surrounded by them. Siting in the bubbles in my outdoor tub, I watch them zoom up to the sage and aloe, flashing their scarlet throats as they hover above the flowers. Big purple spears of Ecchium are also a favorite drinking spot for hummers this time of year. One unfortunate little flier exhausted itself indoors, ending up in a bowl of leftover salad dressing. We cleaned it up carefully, as if it had survived an oil spill.

We're amassing a collection of their tiny corpses since they tend to do a kamikaze act against the garden-reflecting windows at our workplace. We place them lovingly on our altar, tuck them into the dashboards of our cars, give them as gifts. Fly on, Sister Hummingbird, into the next world.

Hummingbird is Joy—she loves life and all its pleasures. She seeks beauty and bliss. While her medicine may seem fragile, she's really a tough little bird. It's said that her feathers open the heart, making excellent love charms. Hummingbird teaches us to drink deeply of life's sweet nectar, then to swiftly and brilliantly let go into the next moment. She is my ideal.

Hummingbird on succulent photo by Sula Nichols
Hummingbird Medicine card by Angela Werneke
Flowering maple photo by www.plantsafari.com


6 comments:

Anonymous said...

FROM SULA NICHOLS, AKA THE EMPRESS:
On a hot summer day that stood still without desire.
I was lying naked on the grass amongst a jumble of vegetables and flowers
Feeling the cool wafts of misty fallout from the sprinkler caress my body
When I heard the thrumming sound..a pulse, a pulse of energy in the air
Looking out through a crack in my eyelids
I spy
Two Hummingbirds in flight.
A blur of metallic greens, reds and blues
Hither and thither, whirling and swooping
Like a couple of angry bees
Eyes closed, back to the ramblings of my mind
I felt a flurried draft of coolness over my stomach
Glancing down
I beheld the wonderous sight of the Hummingbird
Dipping his long delicate beak into, and sipping the water
Collected in my belly button

Anonymous said...

wow...if I pick Hummingbird, will someone or something come and drink out of MY bellybutton?

lindarosewood said...

such a creature of air, yet she teaches us to drink and drink and drink deeply moment to moment. Like your home, the meeting of air and water.

Healers West said...

I love Hummingbirds as much as you do.
Thanks for all your beautiful entries.
With much love,

Gena said...

I remember as a young girl sitting..."you must be very quiet and still!", grandmother said...with my grandmother, beside the holly hocks in her yard, and waiting on and watching as hummingbirds swarmed the very large, fragrant flowers. It is a memory I continue to hold dearly in my heart. Every time I see one now, I think of her though se has been gone for a few years now. They make me feel as though she is near and bring me a peaceful serenity....JOY...!! My grandmother was the little sister in her family of many siblings. She was a strength like no other to our family, full of wisdom, vision, love, a healer. I pulled hummingbird as part of my totem, and reading that hummingbird was the sweet little sister, I knew that was my grandmother.

Linda Sonrisa said...

Dear Gena,
I think our grandmother's must have known each other, at some level.
May the Grandmother spirit always be with us. Happy Holidays!
Love,
Linda