Wednesday, March 9, 2016

The Speed of Joy

Anna's Hummingbird
Ever since I learned to identify the song of our local hummingbird, I have been a fan. I love to scan the treetops in search of this tiny creature, bravely declaring its dominion. Within that gracile body is a thundering heart. They dive and whirl in the air to warn other hummingbirds that the vicinity and all its nectar is spoken for. My relationship with the hummingbird as a symbol has been colored by these facts. Still, its bright, iridescent presence among the flowers, its penchant for sweetness and its tiny form have lent it an association with joy, love, dance and playfulness.

Medicine Cards Joy especially is the quality I Remember from Medicine Cards by Jamie Sams and David Carson. This amazing oracle deck and book, published in 1988, greatly influenced my understanding of animals as totems and symbols. Still, it is important to blend the teachings of others with your own experience. Recently, this little bird has brought me a message by activating my memories and knowledge. When something unusual or out of the ordinary happens, we humans are hardwired to notice. Our survival may depend on it. In modern society where so much seems routine, the appearance of a hummingbird sitting in a nest is reason to gasp in awe.

I was going out to my car and happened to look to the left. I saw a flash of movement suddenly stop in a gangly tree. The nest was hardly more than a hammock strung in the fork of a branch. I tried to get closer but I was spotted and the bird flew out of sight. Later, I desperately wanted to show the nest to my daughter but we were in a rush. On another occasion, the nest was blending in with the tree branches. When I finally found it again, it looked too small and thin to support any weight and I wondered if it had been abandoned. Still, the hummingbirds are all around our condo and the adjacent carport. They have not gone.

Every day that I looked for the nest, I knew I was searching for joy. I was looking for a way out of my depression and apathy. The struggle against my greatest fear, that life is mostly misery, was taken up by this tiny bird. Or, I had assigned the bird this task. I don't really think that some conscious mind is trying to communicate with me through the daily comings and goings of nature. Rather, I think my own mind is speaking to me through symbolism, the language of dreams. How can I make sense of the cycles of my life? How can I accept the time that is passing away from me? How can I achieve contentment, let alone, joy? I have to keep looking. Joy is fleeting, like a hummingbird. It cannot last. It will not stay. But that moment, when it alights so close to you that the colors are dazzling, is worth it. Worth the pain, worth the struggle and worth the wait. It is always nearby. It is always singing.

Navajo Hand Etched and Hand Painted Hummingbird Pottery
On my honeymoon, I bought a southwestern-styled vase with a handle. The round belly of the jug features an etching of a hummingbird resting on some flowers Only later did I find out that it was a wedding vase created by Cecelia Benally, a Navajo artist. Maybe the hummingbird is the perfect reminder that joy in relationships is also fleeting. Not just in marriage, but in our relationship to ourselves.There will be highs and lows, dips and dives, as I endeavor to integrate all the various parts of my self. During the process, I have to remember to look for joy in places common yet unexpected and enjoy it before it zips away.