“Don’t just do something – sit there” is the modern T-shirt wisdom/humor on the Buddhist practice of meditation. Staring out the kitchen window, in a meditation of my own, I saw a hummingbird sipping nectar from the tiny purple flower clusters on my now blooming butterfly bush. Flitting from one cluster to another the tiny emerald bird, recalled to me my Aunt who had passed away years before, and the little miracle of this late blooming bush. My heart was warmed.
In July that bush appeared dead. Just when I was about to tear it from the ground and return it to the garden center where I had purchased it dormant last fall, I noticed two new shoots of green had sprung forth from the base. All Spring not a bud was seen, but now the bush was proclaiming its aliveness, waving its green flag, not in surrender, but triumph! I was even happier with this occurrence, because I had planted the bush on top of my buried beloved dog River. I intended the bush to give me new hope come Springtime, and dancing butterflies outside my kitchen window to lighten the presence of her grave site, and my countenance gazing out upon it.
But no. Spring came and went, and there it stood: dead twigs. Nothing. Not even a good bud gone bad.
Now, there it is blooming in its first year of planting, resurrected from that which appeared dead, but was only resting. I contemplate my own recent life of retreat to the woods, seven years now past, eight relatives, five pets, and one estranged brother with them. My life got small like a cocoon, quiet and contemplative. Often I couldn’t even listen to the radio. Or make dinner. Or brush my teeth. Sometimes my life was so small it hurt. Although I was largely absent to public society, I wasn’t dead, I was only resting. And now, I like the bush, am sending out new green shoots – not in surrender, but in victory.
One summer, or so it seemed, I recall visiting my parents at their home in the Sonoran Desert some years before they passed away. I was standing in their side yard watching a tiny hummingbird alight on a branch of a Palo Verde tree to rest. We were only a couple of feet away from each other. I had never seen one still before – nor one quite that close. In my own stillness there was a timelessness. Something steady and enduring in the oppressive heat. I think it was Life itself. The little bird occasionally took flight to sip a blossom, then sat again on the branch. We watched each other for a short while, then it was off to possibly find another tree in bloom, or another subject of study.
My Aunt was very like that hummingbird. She could barely sit for five minutes to eat dinner with us any holiday we were guests at her house. Up and down. Up and down. She was the last to finish her meal, not because she was too slow, but because she was too fast! Too busy. Too talkative. Too not present to the meal. Now, as they say, she is “At rest.” Unless of course, her spirit has embodied her hummingbird kindred spirit animal, a symbol of joy in Native American culture, and has come to sip nectar on this day of small miracles. I brush my teeth at the kitchen sink as I listen to music on the radio and marvel at the tiny emerald bird of resurrected joy.