Columnist on annual visitors: “Hummingbird don’t fly away, fly away”
By Jamie Miles
A cathedral of color hangs over North Main. Christmas wreaths dangle from downtown light posts. I’ve consumed the last Butterfinger from children’s Halloween candy; its golden wrapper shreds on my desk. The seasons are changing, yet one autumnal signal haunts me by absence rather than emergence.
Gone. They’ve migrated to the land of Spanish dialects, blooming tropical flowers, big succulent flying bugs and bright sunshine. My red, silently-mildewing hummingbird feeder lies dormant. It’s been weeks since I sighted a ruby-throat hovering out my kitchen window. They are far, far away getting tipsy on Honduran hibiscus (those lucky sprites) not thinking a minute of me sitting here surrounded by the auburn richness of fall.
Talk about the marathon of marathons, those teensy fairies stuffed full of nectar and sugar water (always four parts water to one part sugar loving prepared on my stovetop) make the 20-hour trip. Though carnivores who enjoy the good nip of a hearty insect, hummingbirds store enough fat from liquid sugar to fuel a non-stop flight from the central coast of Florida to Central America. Other than briefly resting on an oil rig or fishing vessel, they fly straight for 500 miles. Quite miraculous for a winged creature the size of a Butterfinger nugget.
I’d like to imagine a squadron heading off across the water together. But as solitary souls, they go it alone returning to the spot where they vacation each winter. The same quaint Panamanian village where some distracted senorita pauses at her cocina window to spy a darting, dipping blur of wings drinking from a brilliant orange canna. In that moment, she finds joy witnessing something so odd, so cute and so fleeting. For with hummers, they are there – then they are gone. On to some other flower (or red metal dispenser).
While those sparkly emerald zippers buzz in the land of siestas, we Madisonians find ourselves on that slippery slope tumbling toward Thanksgiving, sliding headlong into Christmas only to screech to a frozen standstill in the gray of January.
So for now, I will concentrate on the beauty of fall and the soon-to-be cozy, blanket-wrapped days of winter knowing that after another 800 miles on my running shoes, 50 discarded Butterfinger wrappers and one trillion loads of laundry – my tropical friends will return. With wonderful stories of ancient Mayan ruins, mariachi violins and nectar-filled days spent lighting on tiny chaise lounges lapped by crystalline turquoise water.
So dear hummer as the days shorten, the temperatures cool and the woolens are unwrapped; I’ll steal glances out my kitchen window anxiously awaiting your safe return. “Vaya con Dios, pequeno colibri’. Hasta nos vamos.”
Take care, little hummingbird. Until we meet again.